Tuesday, October 2

And photos to boot!

Aaaaaand I'm back!

It has been way too long since I have bothered to post any of my adventures on this blog. Just goes to show that I was too engaged in the adventuring!

To be honest, my life has totally changed since February. Let me count the ways.

1. I was a spring break nanny for a family with four children on Passover retreat in Orlando, FL, where I got up close and personal with crowd Judaism + lots of money. Where the result was some classism, some overeating, and some self-examination.

2. I accidentally got myself an awesome job in Toronto by following my instinct to email a film director and chat about the arts and creativity. In the course of our conversation, he mentioned he was looking for a nanny, and the rest is history!

3. I spent three months in Okazaki, Japan, teaching English, with no Japanese and no formal training. Being a vegetarian was challenging, as were the language difficulties and the intense heat and humidity of summer, but I learned so much about education, made some great friends among the students and the mothers, explored some beautiful places, and got to spend a lot of my free time focusing inwardly.

4. I completed another Vipassana meditation retreat, although this time I didn't sit the 10 day course but served. This means that I was not required to be silent, and that I spent ten days cleaning and cooking for about 100 people interspersed with thrice daily sittings, for one hour each. It was transformative -- jumping back and forth between noisy kitchen work and the intense quiet and focus of meditation was a great challenge, and I practiced such deep compassion and mindfulness during those ten days like I have never experienced before. I am still not sitting every day now, but I am more mindful and I am working towards twice daily sits.

5. I attended my dear friend's wedding in Maine - significant because it was the first wedding of a close friend, and because I was fortunate enough to spend two days with my dearest college friends. Transformative, and also grounding, in the way that any contact with your past is.

6. I spent about two months in the Seattle area, visiting friends (hey Anna!), attending college happy hours, and enjoying the Whidbey Island area with family. Lots of solitude, which I crave, and lots of planning and mental work in preparation for my move to Toronto. This time is drawing to a close in about three weeks, when I will relocate to Canada!

In the meantime, I am focusing on being here and now, and enjoying the tiniest changing of the seasons each day. I am trying to be mindful of my body and what I allow into my body (food and other people's interactions and judgments).

My excitement for Toronto is immense - I am beyond thrilled to have my own apartment, to be making money, to get to know a new city and make new friends (who speak English!), but above all, to be working with a family who values me and what I bring to the table, and whose values I also respect. What a gift!

Off to snack on some vegan, gluten-free, melt-in-your-mouth ginger molasses cookies and some tea.

Happy fall!

Thursday, February 23

[2.5 months of downtime]

So, I have about two and a half months to waste until the next job starts. And I still have free flight privileges for another 10 months. So.....I'm thinking perhaps a whirlwind, unplanned Southeast Asia tour would be fun. And/or South America. Because I speak Spanish. And Southeast Asia is just so appealing to me. I mean, come on, beaches, temples, delicious vegetarian food? I'm in.

I pretty much always pack as if I could travel around the world and never come home. So I'm all ready! And I've never done a trip where I don't plan anything. I've never traveled in such a way that I have to rely on other people and pure old karma. It sounds thrilling! I also have barely enough money to feed myself, which would double up the fun, I'm sure. Let's be honest here -- all my money right now is either going to pay off my student loans or to finance an overseas adventure.

Think I'm crazy? You're right. But I love adventure. And this would sure be one hell of an adventure, am I right?

Here's as much planning as I think I'll do: I'll make a list of things I want to do and places I want to see in all these countries, plus a starter list of cheap hostels in each location. The plan is to start in Bangkok, and go through Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and perhaps Burma, Malaysia, and Indonesia if I can swing it (and if I don't get too distracted). And then I'll just ask nice people on arrival and do some scouting around for places to stay and eat (see below). How's that for minimal planning?!

Me eating a fried sandwich in Varanasi, 2012 = YUM.

I'm going to try to lower my standards so much that I can survive on a low, low daily budget. Like, street food (that's been fried or otherwise safely prepared!), grocery shopping and keeping myself stocked with fresh fruit and snacks and packed lunches, public transportation, and crowded dorms with at least lukewarm water. Don't worry folks, there will be a well-kept record of this crazy affair, complete with costs, locations, reviews, and stories.

I am so ready to be challenged and terrified and awakened and satisfied by a trip like this. Thoughts? Is this totally nuts? What do you think I should do to prepare? Do you have any activities or locations you think I should seek out?

Friday, February 10

[four more days in paradise lost]

Alright, friends. We all knew this day was coming, when the adventure of Palestine would come to an end. I did not expect it to be so soon. The brief rain this morning was followed by gorgeous sun and dark clouds, and the air smelled like springtime. It smelled so familiar, welcoming, and alive -- it smelled just the way spring in Kirkland smelled.

I have come to feel about Nablus the way I feel about Kirkland and Northampton. These are places where I know people, where I have favorite places, where there are regular spots I hang out, where I have experienced the full range of emotions from lowest low to highest high. It is a place I will return to, throughout my life, I am sure.

Palestine itself has been welcoming and challenging and inspiring and educational. 'Nothing in the guidebooks is true but the maps,' said Dave Eggers in You Shall Know Our Velocity. That's certainly true in this part of the world, except that depending on who you ask, even the maps aren't true.

I am confident that Palestine and my friends here will always hold a special place in my memory, and in my future. We're not done yet, Palestine. I'll see you soon. Thanks for the ridiculous amount of life experience you've managed to cram into four months. It's been real.

Friday, February 3

[al-quds in february]

I'm currently camped out at the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem's Old City. This is where my grandfather and I will spend the night this evening before migrating to Nablus tomorrow so I can be back in time to help administer the first adult choir rehearsal.

It was fairly sunny and breezy on the way over from Nablus and through Ramallah. My favorite kind of weather. The apartment gets pretty cold at night, but when I'm out walking and the sun is on my face and my feet are moving, it's not too bad. I am also really grateful that the weather is dry today -- a rainy day would have made the meeting up with my grandfather even more tricky and potentially unpleasant.

We'll spend one night here in the Hospice, explore the Old City tonight and have dinner and do a nice walk around the area tomorrow morning before heading back to Nablus tomorrow around lunchtime.

Speaking of which, his plane landed about an hour and a half ago, and depending on how long it took to get through security and how long the shared taxi service is taking, he could be arriving at our meetup point anytime. I think I'll migrate over there and have some tea and write some letters in the meantime. Not looking forward to shimmying and shoving my way through the crowd around Damascus Gate again.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 1

[grandpa comes to palestine!]

Folks, I have an announcement to make. In spite of the rainy weather, the 11 hour flight, the horrendous security checks and the multi-transfer journey from Tel Aviv to the West Bank, my grandfather is coming to Palestine tomorrow.

He is well-read, well-traveled and incredibly enthusiastic about this trip. He's wanted to visit this region of the world for quite some time, and now that his granddaughter (me) is living and working here, the timing is right!

My to-do list for his visit:

  • Jerusalem/Al-Quds: Old City, all the associated churches, mosques, Wailing Wall, museums, delicious dinner out
  • Bil'in: Friday weekly non-violent protest
  • Bethlehem: Church of the Nativity, Dheisheh camp, cultural centers, the Wall and Banksy graffiti, visit my favorite mosque (Mosque of Omar) on the main square, Palestinian Heritage Center, potential hike around Mar Elias and the orthodox monastery, Holy Land Trust?, Taybeh beer, Stars & Bucks cafe
  • Nablus: soap factories, Ali's oud workshop, dinner with Music Harvest folk, Sameh's piano workshop, tea at the Hijjawi dress shop, dinner with Haneen, Old City knafeh, An-Najah University, visit olive groves, Salem village, Balata camp, Sama Nablus, soccer game?
  • Hebron/Al-Khalil: Tomb of the Patriarchs, souq and abandoned main street, Breaking the Silence tour or Green Olive tour, Hirbawi kuffiyeh factory
  • Jenin: Freedom Theatre, dinner with friends
  • Ramallah: Arafat's grave and Muqata, nice dinner out
  • Jericho: gentle walk around the city
  • Maale Adumim? Ariel? http://www.toursinenglish.com/2008/01/israel-west-bank-palestine-alternative.html?
In other news, I'm ready to be onto the next thing. Good thing I have a few months to wander around before Japan in May.

Ahlan wa sahlan, Ba!

Tuesday, January 10

[quote of the day]

“Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the

bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your

blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.”


Tuesday, January 3

[quote of the day]

"Be content to seem what you really are."
-Marcus Aurelius

[do it again, but better]

It's finally 2012. We really are living in the future now. Soon it will be 2019, and then 2042, and then 2078. My grandchildren could be born in the 2050s.

But that is a long way away from today. Right now, the world is in chaos. War, famine, natural disasters, crime, gender inequality, occupation, and unhealthy habits abound.

This is the year that things are going to change, for better or for worse. This year, Presidential elections in the United States will change how Americans are viewed around the world, how international foreign policy affects war and peace, and how domestic policy affects the lives of millions of people.

This year, governments and activists around the world are preparing to deal with the effects of global climate change: intense heat waves, outbreaks of malaria, increased floods, more cases of food poisoning (which increases along with average temperature), increased pollution, melting polar ice caps, continued deforestation and desertification, and the continued unnecessary endangerment of plants and animals (including us!).

On the other hand, people everywhere are mounting an ever-stronger resistance to tradition, capitalism and occupation. All over the world, people are claiming their rights to equality and independence, to control their own fate.

And I believe, along with Paulo Coelho, that when you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it.

For me personally, 2012 is a year of momentous change. This marks the first year in which I have been free from the traditional bounds of education and the restrictive schedule and expectations of college.

I am 22 years old, and I am ready to make my own change. I am not following anyone else's lead now. Nothing is original, and I am preparing to steal and innovate on the worthy ideas of others this year.

I am brainstorming organizations that will support my own creativity (check back soon for official announcement), and that provide opportunities for others (friends and strangers) to do the same. I am living according to a system of morality that never keeps me awake at night. I am taking more risks. I am dreaming bigger, and slowly beginning to make concrete connections between my dreams and reality.

I have been around for more than two decades, and I'm not wasting any more time.

This year:

  • I am prioritizing my health. (I will not eat gluten, nor will I consume animal products of any kind. I will eat as locally as possible, and I will minimize sugar consumption.)
  • I am prioritizing my happiness. (I will not regret or resent time spent dreaming or recharging. I will value creativity and the simple pleasures in life.)
  • I am prioritizing my intelligence and my dreams. (I will not let my own ideas and convictions fall by the wayside in the face of challenges from others. I will continue to educate myself and to seek opportunities to translate thought into action for the benefit of all living things. By the end of 2012, I will be operating my own non-profit.)
  • I am prioritizing my loved ones. (I will be vulnerable with my friends and family, and I will support their dreams and well being as I support my own.)
  • I am prioritizing my planet. (I will educate myself about environmental issues and sustainability. I will take steps to offset my own contributions to global climate change, and I will participate in meaningful activism that protects and respects the earth.)
  • I am prioritizing peace. (I will not spend any time or energy on activities that do not directly contribute to increasing peace, whether they be in my personal or professional life, amongst family, friends, or co-workers, or on a local or global scale. I will engage in meaningful conversations and actions that encourage genuine peacemaking and reconciliation, as opposed to surface-level resolution.)
What are your commitments for 2012?