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?
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!