Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chicago via iPhone photos October 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Finding Love on the Road

Last night I was watching yet another episode of "House Hunters International" (that show is seriously addictive) and the episode chronicled a woman who was buying property in Lima, Peru after meeting and subsequently falling in love with a Peruvian. She hadn't known him very long, but was leaving the USA to buy a house, live with this guy and start a travel business. Basically, she was uprooting her life for someone she'd only known for a few months. I couldn't help but sit there and shake my head and make comments to my roommate about how dumb this girl was for committing to a house payment for someone she barely knew and in a country where she didn't speak the language. I was judging her big time.

Then I realized maybe I am too cynical. Obviously, if you found the love of your life you would want to be near them. I am skeptical after living in Peru because they even have a term for the peruvians that show up in bars to prey on foreigners (brichero/a) and I cannot possibly count how many I saw. But, for every five bricheros and bad vacation romances, I met people who it seemed had honestly found something that was working. Even if it meant long visa waits, long distance periods, moving to Peru and changing their life.

I kept thinking, how do you know you love them when you've only known them for two weeks? But, maybe that's all that it takes and just because I can't see that happening for myself, doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I know my grandparents and several other people's that got married after knowing each other just a short while. It was the thing to do then and not so much now, but their marriages lasted 60 + years and I rarely see people as happy as I've seen them.

When things work out in a long distance romance, a vacation romance or with someone that you've only known a month before deciding to marry them it's seen as super romantic. It's the ones that fail that are seen as a huge mistake, but there are so many relationships and marriages that don't work out that people knew each other for years and years before.

People rarely criticize military wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends for carrying on long distance for months on end. I don't know why it's seen as a weakness in other relationships. You can't judge people without being in their shoes. You can't plan when you're going to meet someone and it usually comes at inconvenient times. But if someone is worth it, long term worth it, then it seems obvious that you would be willing to make big changes to carry on with that person, because you don't want them to get away from you.

Anyway, this is kind of a ranty post I guess, but I am going to stop criticizing, judging and shaking my head when people tell me stories like this, instead I will think, "Wow, crazy. How lucky you are to have met", I'm going to try and see it as romantic, because it is if someone knows so much that you are the one that they are willing to change their lives for you or you for them. Good for you if you've found them. You have to do what you think is right. In reality, I know so many couples that are only together out of convenience and proximity, don't really like each other and are wasting time being with someone they barely like. It seems like a much more romantic idea to like/love someone enough to put up with not being able to see them all the time or having it be complicated to see them knowing that one day it will all be worth it, than to stay in something that means nothing to you. And coming from someone who hasn't really been in love yet, I really should not think I am an expert on these matters, what do I know?

End of rant.

PS One of my family members I saw this weekend (hey Barb!) told me I never said where I had been accepted to school. I'm going to Northwestern this fall, starting Monday... The last 18 months have been unreal, crazy, scary, stressful, amazing, but it's time to get back to being a member of society again. I hope to study abroad next summer and I already have a trip to the Caribbean planned for December after finals, so this is not the end of travelling, but it is the beginning of having to live a more scheduled travel life!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Skyline Obsession

It's really a shame that I only have an iPhone 3G (ancient in technology time) to take pictures right now in Chicago. I'm pretty obsessed with the buildings and the skyline as seen from a distance near my place and all over the city. Thus far I LOVE the city. It's easy to get around, there is always something going on and people seem genuinely nice. I wish these pictures could better showcase how awesome the views are around the city! 

I'm enjoying the last month before school starts, the start of more fall weather and exploring more around the different neighborhoods- probably to eat more food. Oh and of course enjoying having a pool... 

Views from around the city via my awful phone:

From Grant Park looking North, during Lollapalooza 
Right before a crazy storm, the sky looked so awesome, but this doesn't do it justice
Awesome architecture- Wrigley building and Tribune tower
Sears tower in the back 
View from my roof  
Really windy day- look at those waves

Monday, July 18, 2011

Realizations and Acceptance

I feel like a failure. I'm back in the United States right now after just one week in Israel when I was supposed to be there for a month. I thought I had a well thought out plan- five days on the beach in Tel Aviv, two weeks doing WWOOF on a farm in the Negev, culminating in a week with friends camping and hanging out. Then things started to go wrong even before I left home.

I had a lot of reservations about going on this trip in the first place. I knew I wanted to get out of Boulder and I was excited to pack and leave from my old apartment. But, that was the last time I was excited about leaving on this trip. I am usually highly organized, almost to a fault, but this trip I couldn't get motivated to pack and didn't have anything fully put together until the day before, less than 24 hours before I was going to leave. Highly unusual for someone who usually packs for a big trip a week in advance. 

And then I was super busy the last week before I was supposed to leave. When I thought about the upcoming vacation I was in denial that I was actually leaving, also odd for someone who lives to travel. When Monday finally came to the airport, I drove myself there and it still had not hit me that I was leaving and that it was my choice. 

It wasn't until I was at Ben Gurion waiting for the train to go to Tel Aviv that it hit me, I did not want to be on a trip where I had planned to be by myself for 3/4 of it. It was a really awful feeling considering I planned this, I got on the plane and now I was on the other side of the world. In addition to my nagging feeling of regret, things started to go wrong from there on out. 

The first night in the hostel in the mixed dorm some guy was a major creeper, not only to me, but to the other girl in the dorm offering to get us drunk and give massages. I went to sleep afraid he was going to come into my bed or touch me. I thought I had a plan B though, my Israeli friend had offered me his couch at his place in Tel Aviv, basically around the corner from the hostel. Perfect, I thought! But, then he wasn't there in the morning, he hadn't asked his roommates and I felt super awkward. I looked for hostels and private rooms were really expensive. I decided to go to Jerusalem to stay at a friend's apartment and try to go to the farm early 

But then he didn't have a couch, things were complicated in his life and my presence wasn't helping. I started to consider going home since it seemed like already the last fourth of my trip, the part I was going to have company for, would probably never come into fruition. Since I had already made arrangements to go to the farm I decided to just go hoping it would be better and at least a good two weeks. 

The farm wasn't what I expected though. I wouldn't be working with the animals or the winery, but doing just gardening stuff. There was only one other person that spoke English and without a basis of Hebrew I was struggling big time. I felt super sick on the bus there and at the farm. I knew that I probably needed a different farm, but then all the other ones I tried to contact were full for another week or two. I had a long day of doing nothing on the farm for Shabbat, a whole day of solo thinking time sans electronics, in the middle of nowhere and I realized that I needed to just go home. Nothing was working out as planned and struggling through three more weeks alone, plus spending a bunch of  money on a hostel was not going to be worth it. Changing my ticket ended up being cheaper than sticking it out. 
Horses on the farm, whom I wish was part of the work on the farm
I came home three weeks before I had planned, or more like five months before I planned to be in Denver again. My pride is hurt and I am finding it difficult to reconcile the realization that I am done travelling alone. I enjoyed it most of the time last year, but I think that that phase has ended. I am not done travelling, but I am done taking long solo trips for a long while, maybe for good. I'm working hard on accepting that fact. Were things that bad on my trip? Not really probably, but alone they were amplified. 

Lesson I am taking away from this whole ordeal: listen to your intuition, it's trying to tell you things. I wish I had... It was an expensive lesson to learn. 

At least sunsets were pretty in the Negev on the farm! 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kindness of Strangers

Along with New Yorkers, Israelis have a bad reputation of being rude and brash. It never bothered me in either place, in New York people are not rude, they're busy, in Israel it's just a part of their culture. In fact, people in both places are quite willing to help you out with where you are and where you need to go. The only problem in Israel is that I didn't speak hebrew which posed a problem when you are not really sure where you are or what's going on exactly. Luckily for me, strangers were really kind in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

After a trip to H&M in Tel Aviv at the Azrieli Center, I was sitting on a bench at a stop for a lot buses that go all over. I wasn't really sure what bus I needed to take, but figured I knew how to get to the beach from the Central Bus station, where I had come from, so it would be best to backtrack and go from there. I was waiting for quite a while and then this woman starts talking (kind of yelling) to me in hebrew and I tried to say "I only speak english", "anglit (the word for english in hebrew)" and the woman just kept talking to me very loudly and quickly. The girl next to me translated for me that the lady wanted to know if I wanted to go to the beach (I did, and was wearing beach attire) and that I should take the bus that was there. "Seshim ve shelosh" she said again, which is 63 (numbers up to 100 are part of the very limited hebrew I knew). I got on the bus just crossing my fingers that I was going to the beach and would recognize where I was at some point. That lady was amazing. She probably saved me an hour of commuting! I don't think I ever properly thanked her since I was so confused about what was happening, but thank you random yelling lady!

The last day I was in Jerusalem I was waiting for a bus to go to the bus station and a lady just handed me her ticket and I stared at it, then stared at her questioningly. She said something in hebrew that I took to mean that there was another ride on the ticket. Sure enough there was and I made I ended up saving 6.40 shekles or about $2 on that trip. Again thank you random lady, sorry for the very confused stare!

This is a lesson that everywhere there are nice people, no matter what the city or the country, even if it might not seem like it. And there is even such a thing as helpful yelling! I wish I could have helped the numerous people that asked me (probably) for directions in hebrew, to which I gave them blank stares. I'm going to have to pay it forward on public transport in Chicago, that is when I learn how to use it.

In my opinion, strangers are pretty great.

My iphone camera really sucks and is not doing the Tel Aviv beach justice at all! 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

In Transit: Stupid Americans

I have been lucky to steer clear (generally) of most Americans that fit the negative stereotype of ignorance and laziness. I was, however, unlucky enough to sit next to one on my ten-hour flight from Newark to Tel Aviv. The flight was packed with Christians from Texas and Oklahoma going on pilgrimages to the Holy Land to find the roots of their religions. It makes sense, but I was pretty surprised at the number of ├╝ber religious christians there were on the flight. There were nearly as many of them as Orthodox and Hassidic Jews.

After being asked to move twice to new seats so that friends and families could sit together, I was squeezed into the window seat (I prefer aisles for long flights and even had to give up one with a free seat next to it) next to a woman from a group of pastors from Oklahoma on a trip to reaffirm their faith and station in the church. Apparently, a typical pastor in the Methodist church only lasts 7 years and these pastors were reaching this expiration and the bishop was attempting to help them stay with the church.

I tend to try and not engage in unnecessary conversation on the plane, it's not that I do not like to talk to strangers, in fact some of them are really interesting. However after last years travels, I've discovered that the interesting ones are generally not the ones that strike up a conversation on the plane. Usually, it's the people I don't want to talk to that have that look in their eye like they want to talk. It's that darting eye, trying to catch your eye contact so that they get the ok to engage another person in conversation. I try to not talk to these people because ten hours straight in a five foot square area is a lot of time to spend with anyone that you do not have a close relationship with or are annoyed with aka most people interested in talking with you about nothing.

I was seated next to one of these darty-eyed women, a pastor from the group described above. I knew from the moment she opened her mouth that her semi-southern accented self and I would probably have differing views on life. Here are some highlights from the conversation between this woman and I on the plane:
  1. After some standard getting to know you questions: Her: "Oh so you're moving to Chicago? I don't know why you would do that, that is a big change from Denver. You are going to hate it there, the weather sucks and you will probably get shot if you go to the wrong part of town." [Who gives that kind of response to someone?] 
  2. Still getting to know you questions: "You travelled all by yourself for a year? Wow I would never, ever do that. How weird." [I am struggling to portray exactly how this came across, mostly it had a distinct, what's wrong with you tone. As in, you are clearly a crazy person. Thanks for the undesired comments about my lifestyle.]
  3. After we are on the plane a while: Her: "What language do you think that guy is speaking?" Me: "He is speaking Hebrew...." Her: "Really? Wow, I thought that was a dead language." "Umm, well that's what they speak in Israel." Trying hard to redeem herself: "Well I speak Spanish, some German, some Greek and a little bit of Arabic and I knew it wasn't one of those..." [Is this woman for real? You seriously are going to a country that you didn't even research enough to see what language they speak there?]
  4. During the flight: "Why do you these women have their heads covered in scarfs." "Umm well they're Orthodox Jews..." [Maybe I'm stupid to think that when you know a lot about religion and study it everyday that you are not living in complete ignorance of other religions.]
  5. After the Continental's "Welcome to Israel" video where they specified if you were bringing large, importing quantities of electronics you have to go through the "special" immigration line: "I brought some electronics, should I go through that line?" [Clearly this lady has not travelled a lot and who would submit themselves to the special line for having an iPod??]
After the first ten minutes of talking to this woman I knew I really didn't want to talk to her. I tried everything, I was clearly watching movies with head phones on for most of the time I was awake, but that didn't seem to matter to this woman. She would just turn and start commenting to me. She did not get the hint at all, I didn't even think I was being subtle. I am just thankful that I didn't really sleep that much for the two nights prior to leaving and was able to sleep a lot more than usual on the flight.

I hope to steer clear of more women like her during the rest of my time in Israel. At least I should be able to avoid ten hour exposures to such awful people. I know that having a disarming personality will be a huge asset in my career, but it is often a huge pain in the ass in situations like this one. 

View from the coffee shop in Jerusalem that I'm writing from- more on why I am not in Tel Aviv later
(PS my camera died a painful death on NYE last trip, so there will be limited photos this time. My semi-broken iPhone will have to somewhat suffice as long as I can keep it alive.)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Saying Goodbye is the Hardest Part

Two months and not a word on this thing.... It's not that I haven't been doing things or that big things haven't changed. In fact, I got exactly what I wanted, my first choice graduate program! It's not that I haven't been travelling either, I made a quick trip to Seattle and even squeezed in a short camping trip. It's not that I haven't been having fun either, music festivals, baseball games, too many happy hours, a kickball league. I even made the decision to live out of a suitcase again for a month and be homeless to travel around Israel, spend time on the beach, do WWOOF, and hang out in Jerusalem with one of my best friends.

Why haven't a written anything? Because even though I got what I want, I am still mourning the loss of this life, the ability to move around, own nothing, meet new people, pack everything in one bag and live month to month, in the moment. I'm not saying goodbye to just my friends, family and familiarity, but also to a stage of life. The last three years have been tumultuous, stressful, even downright horrendous at times, but they allowed me to do something I always wanted to do, drop everything and travel.

I survived a pretty angsty, roller coaster ride of a quarter life crisis. I'm happy to have it in the past and to have survived, even thrived to come out on the other side with plans, a future career. But, even the scariest roller coasters are fun sometimes, but it's time to get off, get over it and move onto real life.

I own things again, which may not seem like a big deal, but I haven't owned a bed, a desk or a dresser in two years. It's frightening and exciting to give up a nomadic life. For the record, I prefer nomad to bohemian, I'm no hippy.

Saying goodbyes feels more permanent this time, more scary. A good number of friends are doing the same as me this fall, graduate school, law school, medical school, pharmacy school. It means that people are going to be putting roots down somewhere, maybe forever. No longer will everyone live in one place, we're going to have to plan to travel far distances to see one another, maybe only special events, maybe someone will get married and I won't even know their significant other. The whole thing is weird, weirdly awesome.

Everything is about to change and this change has been a long time coming, though I feel more melancholic (you could even use the word sadder) than I thought I would about leaving. I'm bad at goodbyes, especially to people you know you'll never see again, people that you hope you'll see again, people you aren't ready to say goodbye to yet.

Goodbye living out of a suitcase, goodbye Boulder, goodbye to Walnut houses (or Spruce houses), goodbye being within driving distance of friends/family and driving in general, goodbye life as I know it.

Hello rest of my life, I'm ready for you.