Clash with Reality

Beyond the beautiful history in the city, Jerusalem (and Israel) have a turbulent current situation. The Israeli and Palestinian populations are in a constant state of conflict. At times this conflict is an under riding tension, while other times the tension explodes into clashes. Upon arrival I was immediately taken aback by the constant military presence. I found it incredibly unnerving to encounter military personnel carrying automatic weapons while on simple retail outings in the city. I never expected it to turn into something.

Then news happened. Earlier in the month 3 Israeli teens were kidnapped on the West Bank, yesterday their bodies were found. The last few weeks the Israeli Defense Forces have been conducting raids on the West Bank, resulting in several hundred arrests and 5 Palestinian deaths. Hours after the  report of the bodies discovered, a revenge murder of an Arab teen occurred late last night. There have been several clashes reported in the last 24 hours, some have been violent, some have not. Public transportation has either been canceled or greatly diminished.

Honestly I’m not sure of the likelihood of any immediate danger to me or the family I’m staying with. We’ve been sent notices to stay close to home, and avoid demonstrations and specific locations in the city. I knew there was some risk in coming to this part of the world, but I honestly never thought that risk would be so relevant. After talking to a few Israeli’s, situations this tense aren’t anything new, and is unfortunately part of life here. Walking home from the grocery store this evening, the streets were still full of families, and the playground full of kids.

Having grown up in a middle class American town, I’ve never actually felt an actual fear for my safety beyond walking home alone late at night and hoping I didn’t get pick-pocketed. Receiving a Red Alert Security Notice from the US consulate has been deeply unsettling. Although I don’t worry about the case of an actual event, I’ve been in a state of stress all day. I could be blowing the severity of the situation out of proportion, American’s tend to do that. Hopefully I am.   Suddenly the minutia of my personal problems have been put into perspective, from a graceful slap of reality.

Here’s a couple articles with more information from various sides on the current situation:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-murdered-teenagers-body-of-arab-teen-found-in-jerusalem-in-suspected-revenge-killing-sparks-clashes-9577858.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/06/30/israels-slain-teenagers-4-things-you-should-know/

 

 

Unexpected Reunion

Upon arrival in Israel, I hit up my social media world to see if I had any connections in my current location. Some were dead-ends, but one turned into a beautiful reunion. Erika, a friend from my days at Chapman University, and Rock Harbor Church was also in this fine city, and even better actually wanted to hang out.

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We grabbed some coffee and set off to take the city by storm, or just walk several laps around town. The majority of our time was spent making tracks in the old city and hitting up two of the three main religious sites, including the Church of the Sepulchre, and the Western Wall. We continued to wind through, around, and over the old city. 

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After we had gotten our fill of extremely old, and extremely important sites, we made our way to the newer part of the city. As Erika had already spent a couple weeks here she was happy to show me some great spots, along with places that are actually open on Shabbat.

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Our adventure didn’t end there, we made our way to the Arab neighborhood close to my house for falafel and some World Cup madness. Holland was playing and I have adopted them as my secondary team to cheer for. I’m already a shameless bandwagon World Cup fan, I’m totally ok with picking and choosing my teams. It was a delightful time hanging with a heard of old dudes smoking hookah and cheering on teams that neither of us actually had roots with.

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Hang day with Erika was grand demonstration of how big and small the world can be. Although I’m half way across the world I was still able to run into someone that I knew. Being in a place that is so totally different its nice to have a familiar face. Although I had only been in town for a few days it was great to verbally digest the political information that I had already been bombarded with. We both come from relatively similar backgrounds, in that we grew up with similar religious beliefs, in a middle class American town, and we blessed with a university education. She has spend her time here gathering stories and perspectives, from various stand points. To hear what she has learned and her stance was a great introduction. Unfortunately her synopsis is that the more you know, the more difficult and cloudy the situation becomes.

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J-town So Far….

After a 32+ hour marathon of travel connections I arrived in the Tel Aviv airport, just a little tired and disoriented. It was a glorious welcome to have most of my host family waiting for me at arrivals. I left the same family last year at the Amsterdam airport in a violent fit of tears, unsure when I would see their little faces again. I never imagined I would be lucky enough to see these nuggets so soon. As with all good friends, we picked up right where we left off, even though we were meeting a year later which is practically a lifetime in children world.

Last day with the family July 2013, and my how they have grown.

Last day with the family July 2013, and my how they have grown.

My glorious host family wasted no time getting me into the swing of things. Within the first couple days they had taken me to the Machane Yehuda Market, along with a couple more major shopping areas, Garden Tomb, Mediterranean Beach, as well as the Dead Sea. Unsurprisingly I needed a couple days to recover from transportation as well as travel.

The neighborhood

The neighborhood

So far Jerusalem has been everything I hoped it would be, and more. The neighborhood we’re staying in is “old” however new by Jerusalem standards, built in the 1800’s. There’s outdoor markets galore and just about everything is within walking distance, including the Old City which holds the holiest sites for Islam, Judaism, and Christian religions, as well as countless other old and significant sites.  I may need another 6 weeks after this trip to process everything here, between the culture, history, and current politics.

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I'm floating in the Dead Sea, I'm really floating!!!

I’m floating in the Dead Sea, I’m really floating!!!

I’m Back!!! (On the Road, that is)

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Ah and just a year ago I thought the international adventures would be ending. Last week I dusted off my passport and got on a plane for Israel. Although seemingly random, the pieces seemed to fall into place, allowing this grand adventure to take place. So this is what went down. In case you didn’t know, or forgot, I spent 2012-2013 as a Nanny for a fabulous family in the Netherlands, outside of Rotterdam. That same family moved to Jerusalem, Israel, and we have kept in touch since the separation. During a wonderfully chaotic skype conversation, my host mom mentioned me coming out to help/visit. Ummm, YES!! Turns out she was serious. Just at that time I realized I could take the summer off work at the dance studio, and told Danielle I was game. A week later I had my tickets booked, and 3 months later, I’m here, in JERUSALEM!!! I’ll have 6 weeks in this destination, and considering the amount of significantly historical sites, that may be just enough time. 

Finding extra in the ordinary

There’s been radio silence on the blog here for a while. That’s because this was a travel(ish) blog, and well I’m not really traveling anymore. I’ve been back home in the states for about 7 months now. Unexpectedly, I’ve had a tremendous amount of adventures, learned about life and myself, and all back in my little hometown of Fruita, CO. 

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When it became apparent last year that I would have to move home come the summer of 2013, I was less than thrilled. I had spent the better part of the first 18 years of my life figuring out how to get out the Grand Valley. I was one of “those kids,” that looked upon their hometown with a bit of scorn, and had my eyes set on the distant horizon. I managed to move to the west coast for college, and because that wasn’t far enough, I continued onto Japan, and then The Netherlands. 

After three years abroad, I decided that it was time to move back to the states. I had a great job lined up as a dance teacher, however my lack of savings would make it necessary to have my parents as room mates. For three years my daily life was an adventure, everything was new and foreign, I was constantly learning new things and exploring new places. For years my status as a foreigner was a central part of my identity. And now I was going back to my small, familiar, hometown, settling back into the doldrums of routine familiarity.

But the last 7 months have been anything but dull. I have discovered an incredible community of people, and the wealth of outdoor recreation activities that Western Colorado has to offer. The people that I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by constantly challenge and push me out of my comfort zone. Although I haven’t traveled far since coming home, I have learned some central lessons. 

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Having an extraordinary life is a choice.  When living abroad I made it a mission to learn as much as I could about the culture that I was immersed in. My friends and I constantly made an effort to take advantage of every weekend and holiday to soak up as much adventure as we could. The deadline of our stay in our given location gave us an urgency to experience life. This same attitude can be applied to any given location. Somehow or another I managed to miss the fact that I grew up in an incredible place for outdoor recreation. The hiking, climbing, cycling, skiing, and mountain biking opportunities less than an hour away from town are mind blowing. For example, singletracks.com, and  outside magazine have named Fruita one of the top 5 mountain bike destinations in North America. WIth my recently gained adventurous approach, I have tried to take every opportunity to experience life and my surroundings. I have discovered that I don’t have to be somewhere new, I just have to see the same places with new eyes. Although things may be common, that doesn’t mean they aren’t interesting. I have the opportunity to constantly learn, and gain a deeper understanding of my surroundings, making even the most repetitive aspects of life more interesting. 

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Big risk, big rewards.  I’ve found that the shape and nature of a person’s comfort zone varies greatly from one person to another. While traveling for years, seems to have pushed past several boundaries, being lost and different was where I felt most comfortable. Constantly being on the go kept people at a safe distance, things didn’t get too close or involved. Staying in one place, with people that spoke my native language meant that relationships would get deeper, with more opportunities for vulnerability and possibly getting hurt. My physical comfort zone has also been stretched, with friends that constantly push the boundaries of recreation I have been challenged in a variety of ways whether it is skiing, mountain biking, or climbing. Regardless of the nature of exploration, I have always found that pushing past the point of comfort has yielded gratifying results, whether it is self gratification or stronger community. 

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Moving home has been a beautifully humbling experience. Stripped of the the previous intrigue of a foreigner, I have built relationships that with people that find value in everyday life, while constantly pushing each other past our comfort zones. 

Why I’m walking.

Path-1-001In just a couple days I’ll be wandering across Spain. I suppose wandering isn’t the correct term as there is a specific goal in mind, however the travel will be slow going. As mentioned earlier I’ll be taking part in the Camino de Santiago* pilgrimage, walking from Irun to Camino de Santiago, Spain. Sure walking 20+km/ day, sleeping on rock hard beds, and questionable food, for 5 weeks doesn’t seem like everyone’s idea of a great summer holiday. But I can’t think of any other way I’d like to spend my last month in Europe. Although this pilgrimage is originally a Catholic journey, I have a variety of reasons other than the dogmatic motivation.

In the last three years abroad I have had an incredible time meeting a variety people and having once in a lifetime experiences, but I also feel that my priorities have gone off course. I am looking forward to these next 5 weeks of walking to take value in simplicity. I will be looking to get more from less. Less stuff. I’ll be walking with a pack that’s less than 15lbs and far smaller than a carry-on suitcase, filled with 2 changes of clothes, a sleeping bag, water, and a few other essentials. I hope to adjust to having and needing only the essential items rather than comfort and social status. In a more abstract term I’m also looking forward to being less connected. Internet service is not gaurenteed throughout the Camino, but I’m also choosing to only check my email and refrain from facebook during the journey. Like many other people I have become far too dependent on social media for communication and entertainment. While facebook does serve a great purpose to keep people connected, I find myself spending far too much time looking at people I hardly know, or pages just wasting time. I want to work on focusing on the world at hand, the people, sights, smells, sounds and experiences rather than the latest banter about television dramas. In that case if you would like to reach me my email: ediekman@gmail.com will be the best way to reach me.

I’m also hoping to meet a variety of people, who have things and wisdom to share. I’m leaving my heart open to the adventures and characters I’ll meet along the way. On that note, I’ll catch ya in 5 weeks, and 500 miles, on the other side of Spain.

*Primer on the Camino courtesy of Wikipedia: “Today tens of thousands[12] of Christian pilgrims and many other travellers set out each year from their front doorstep, or popular starting points across Europe, to make their way to Santiago de Compostela. Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few travel as some of their medieval counterparts did, on horseback or by donkey (for example, the British author and humourist Tim Moore). In addition to people undertaking a religious pilgrimage, the majority are travellers and hikers who walk the route for non-religious reasons: travel, sport, or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a foreign land. Also, many consider the experience a spiritual adventure to remove themselves from the bustle of modern life. It serves as a retreat for many modern “pilgrims”.

Searching for the fields of flowers.

IMGP8290Tulip fields in Holland probably rank in the top 10 of stereotypical landscapes around the world. When I found out that I was moving to the Netherlands I imagined that pretty much the entire country would be covered in colorful flowers year round. Ok maybe not year round, but at least the flowers would be everywhere. Upon arrival I found that certainly isn’t the case. Much like the sakura or cherry blossoms in Japan, there’s a 2-3 week window in the year where the flowers come out in a dazzling display before wilting away. However this dazzling display is restricted to a small area between the cities of Haarlem and Amsterdam. So in order to see witness my ideal Dutch landscape there would have to be a day trip in order.

IMGP8328Vic and I made plans to take our bikes on the train to the area and ride around. However on the morning of we were feeling especially adventurous and motivated and decided to cycle to the flowers instead of taking a train. And we were just going to cycle, we were going to take the scenic route. The day started out fantastic riding through the dunes, making great time, even stopping for a mid ride hot chocolate.

IMGP8294 IMGP8296When were were 3/4 of the way our great travel karma ended. Vic got a flat. Normally that isn’t a huge deal in Holland as you’re never more an a few km away from a bike shop. But it was a Sunday, on a holiday weekend, and the town we were in was completely shut down. Vic couldn’t ride far on a flat, and there wasn’t a train station nearby, the outlook was pretty grim. We found a community bike pump and she managed to get her bike to the next town over, Noordwijk.

IMGP8275 IMGP8269Luckily Noordwijk was one of the only towns open in the area, not only were most shops open, bike repair shops were open. Thanks to our lucky stars, Vic got her tire fixed and we were able to move on. Or so we thought. Shortly after pulling out of the bike shop, a cyclist cut me off, slammed into my front wheel leaving me horizontal in the middle of the road. I pulled myself off the ground, out of traffic, and examined Alan (my bike) and I for injuries. I got out of the ordeal unscathed, but Alan didn’t share in my good fortune. His wheel bore a stronger resemblance to a banana than a circle leaving Alan unridable. We were still walking distance from the bike shop, and returned to get Alan straightened out. Along he wasn’t as good a new, he was functional, and we would be able to continue our quest for flowers.

969496_10151355192580947_1691088465_n 942260_10151355192190947_1596037762_nOnce on the road again, it was less than a 15 minute ride from the flowers. If it was much farther I can only imagine what other messes we would have gotten ourselves into. We had the obligatory photo shoot to prove that we made it then picnicked, before beginning the journey home. (We had to hurry home to beat and oncoming storm) While the days events were much more than I bargained for, the flowers were everything that I expected and hope for. Between the ride distance, finicky weather, and bicycle issues, it was one heck of a day. Was it worth it just to see some flowers? Absolutely.

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Cheeky trip to Londontown

216344_971707463649_1020388948_nLast weekend I took a quick little trip to London to visit my pal Jacob. (yes the same one that came to visit and cheat on his monarchy for queen’s day) Although I’ve already been, I was told by Dutch immigration that if i wanted to stay in Europe till July I would have to leave the European continent, and get my passport stamped and re stamped. Luckily there’s a bus service between Amsterdam and London so I was able to take a weekend jaunt on a low budget. Well, low budget does not mean fast as far as transportation is concerned. Roundtrip I clocked 30 hours of travel to stay in Londontown for 32 hours. But who’s complaining, I just took a quick weekend trip to London, that’s still pretty rad.

907834_10151436918218526_729835617_n-polaAs for my drive-through speed impression of London and its inhabitants: its certainly more diverse than the Netherlands. There’s a a huge amount of cultures that collide in the city to make an interesting mix. People jay walk like nobody’s business. Not only do they cross whenever they please they make you seem like a fool when waiting for a crossing signal. Never mind the approaching cars, they’ve got to get to the other side of the street. Even though most people are speaking english it doesn’t mean I can understand them. Riding on the double decker red buses is not nearly as magical as it seems. Especially when its the night bus and someone is sick all over the exit. Those iconic red buses are best left to be observed from the outside. Hopefully its not the last time I’m in the city, however there’s plenty of places for me to go that I haven’t been yet. Its also great to see a friend that I made in Japan, even after we’ve both been away for more than a year. Its comforting to know that I will still see the friends I’ve made abroad, and there’s still more adventures to be had with these pals.