All posts tagged: Life has a sense of humor

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Hereditary travel neuroses of a Greek childhood

Things I learned in Greece: Never rush your coffee, summer is everything, always chase the dust. This is my last morning in the United States for some time and I have spent it shaking my head at dust. Let me explain. Ever since I was a child, I could never sleep the night before a big journey. “A big journey” then meant a car ride from Thessaloniki to Larissa, 2 hours away, where my father’s family lived. I prepared for those trips for days, lining up all my stuffed animals, deciding which of them get to go on this trip, making packing lists (for them, not me, because the beauty of being six years old was that I could live in a single pair of shorts all summer), writing up itineraries (again for them because, um…), and packing car snacks. In the summer, my aunt Mina would move from her home in scorching hot Larissa to the seaside town of Platamonas. At least two weeks before my family descended on Platamonas to join aunt Mina, …

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The involved places

I did not come to the Middle East to maintain an attachment to privacy. I have worked in five countries in this region and each of them has stripped me bare. The invisible bubble between you and the world dissolves and you sit there, practically naked in all your layers of clothes, with yourcollarbones covered but your life exposed. Questions feel like pokes initially, like none-of-your-business jabs. This is the story of my making peace with the questions. It is a story of my love for “the involved places”, the places that do not stop at “nice to meet you” and “check, please”, the places that transcend what is appropriate or their business to form a human, intrusive life connection. *** Living above Burgers Bar means I have woken up on more than one occasion wondering if there is, indeed, a portion of the population that craves a lamb burger at 8 AM. Some people wake up to the gurgling of the coffee machine or to a whiff of hazelnut coffee; Elijah and I wake …

Somebody check the Kinneret: Thanksgiving, by way of toilet flushing

In October, I decided that home is where the mosquitoes are. And then all of a sudden the desert heat left us, and so did the mosquitoes, and I had to come up with less itchy signals of home. This month’s reference point comes in the form of toilet flushing. Not having grown up in an English-speaking country meant I missed out on all the expressions about pee and poo and everything in between. Luckily, as a 20-something in Israel, I get to atone for this early childhood shortcoming. Even though I work as far from a kindergarten as humanly possible, I find myself sing-songing: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” The water level of Lake Kinneret, the Hebrew name for the Sea of Galilee, is decreasing worrisomely. As such, it becomes impossible to wash an extra dish or flush the toilet in Israel without someone reminding you that you are one-handedly killing the Kinneret. It is, by necessity, a country of environmental conservation, at least when it comes …

Dinner napkins and barbecue ribs

“Adversity is like a strong wind. I don’t mean just that it holds us back from places we might otherwise go. It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be.” Arthur Golden, The Memoirs of a Geisha You get hit by a truck. Not in the figurative “I feel like I got hit by a truck” sense. In the literal, “truckers were on strike for two weeks in the Balkans and they still made an exception so they could ram into a car in which I was riding.” Your body creaks as you move. Broken ribs here, dislocated shoulder there. And what is on daytime TV, ready to welcome you to Day 1 of six weeks of prescribed bed-rest? A cooking feature on barbecue ribs and lamb chops. The world has a sense of humor. Besides learning how to cook other mammals’ dislodged ribs, daytime TV enlightened me in the following …

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Jungle Macho

Through the jungle very softly flits a shadow and a sigh – he is Fear – o little Hunter – he is Fear -Rudyard Kipling After a strange Christmas in the West Bank, it was time to trade Greek lamb on a spit for piranha fishing this Easter. As Bogota shut down to observe the religious holidays, I packed my 99% DEET bug spray and headed for the Amazonian jungle. One would think that 99% DEET bug spray would burn a hole through one’s skin. And it well can. What it apparently cannot do is prevent mosquito bites in the Amazon. On a year when I have lived and worked among insurgents and rebels, drunk questionable tap water and eaten the most ominous looking street food, the greatest threat to my life has come from a surprising source: mosquitoes. Amazonian mosquitoes resemble birds more than insects; some of them deserve their own zip code and should be fought with a bazuka, not a fly swatter. Starting at sunset, a process unfolds that greatly resembles Elizabeth …

An Accidental Date in Colombia

Location: Bogota, ColombiaReading: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot DiazListening: Hard to Explain, The Strokes Here we go again, Square 1. I know nobody here, I have never been here before, and yet, this is my home for the next three months. This post chronicles this literal search for a home, as already narrated to those who promised not to react with histrionics. Prior to arriving in Bogota, I signed up for an online apartment listing service that connects potential tenants with landlords who have available rooms. I perused the site once or twice a day and set up some apartment viewings for the day of my arrival. That is how I find myself on the corner of Calle 13 and Carrera 30. I am supposed to meet a Luis, who is supposed to show me his lovely apartment. Alas, I do not know what this Luis looks like and because this is not Love in the Time of Cholera (yet – Gabriel Marcia Marquez is Colombian, after all), I cannot show up …

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The Fox Ate My Breakfast

For there were countless numbers of stars: each time we looked above we were astounded by the swiftness of their daring play, while in our hearts we felt safe and secure watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate, knowing somehow we had survived their fall.¬† -Rainer Maria Rilke There was the time we sat on a train for 23 hours, eerily stationed in the Nile Valley behind a train that hit a cow just a few train stops ahead of us on the same track. Or the time we got kicked off a bus at the Mt. Sinai checkpoint and had to hitchhike back to Cairo from the middle of the desert. And there is, of course, the time I got bullied by a 10-year-old child screaming “King! Kong! King! Kong!” at a major international border. My roommate Geraldine aptly remarked that our expedition into the Western Sahara desert this past weekend was the first uneventful venture away from Cairo in a while. It also constituted perhaps the most beautiful natural landscape I have witnessed in my …