Sampai Jumpa Indonesia, Shalom Israel!

18 Dec

Leaving Indonesia was almost (with one amazing exception) anti-climactic. I hugged a lot of people (mostly women) goodbye, shook a lot of hands, and promised I would return many more times than I said goodbye. Because this was my second time back, after only 3 months of being away, it felt natural to quietly slip out the back door and let everyone realize I was kind of gone later. Right now I still feel like I’m on vacation from Indonesia, and I’m not sure when that will change. It’s not an unpleasant feeling; it’s nice to feel completely content with where I am and where I am going.

Now for that amazing exception! I stopped in Jakarta (and Surabaya to get the rest of my things and say goodbye to Emily, TJ and Max over a delicious breakfast) because I thought a lot of my friends would be there as well (most of them had just finished a regional conference in Makassar and were on their way to Southeast Asia and beyond for winter break via Jakarta). We had planned to meet there for one last night, but in the last few days I hadn’t heard from anyone except Marjolein (who I stayed with) and Heather (a former ETA who is teaching in Surabaya). I assumed everyone was busy or hadn’t been able to make it (Heather also seemed confused as to why no one was responding to her SMSs), and was perfectly happy to have a last great Indonesian meal and go to a bar with Heather to complete my time in Indonesia. When Heather said we had to try this amazing resturant in Kemang, I thought nothing of it. When I walked in and saw my three friends Melina, Rachel and Jess sitting at a table, my first thought was “Oh wow, this is awkward, we just walked in on them having this private dinner, this is why they’ve been avoiding me all day, etc.” It took me 10 minutes of sitting and talking to them (keep in mind, I am running on ~3 hours of sleep) that they planned this surprise dinner for me to celebrate me leaving Indonesia and for getting the Shansi fellowship! Another current ETA, Chris (from the Malukku Islands) and an ELF, Michael, came as well. We ate amazing Italian food, laughed and loved, and I thought that was the end of the surprises. We then got in cabs to go somewhere they wouldn’t tell me about (I figured it out on the way because I recognized the streets after a while). We ended up at our friend Mia’s house, where we met Elena (another former ETA) and had carrot cake. I was so amazed that my friend planned this wonderful night for all of us and realized that I was sad to leave the community that we had all made together so far away from home (I even made a speech to that effect). It gave me so much confidence that I could again create that kind of community in India next year, at home in Boston, and wherever else I might go.

Israel has been relaxing, freezing at night, and full of warm people I love. I’m here mostly visiting the Reshef family, who my family met when they lived in the US and went to the same school as me and my sister for two years. I’ve been to Israel once before (with my Mom and Casey in 1999) but we never made it to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. It’s been amazing being here, very different than I remember and expected, and most of all, it’s been wonderful seeing my friends and Israeli family. This is what I’ve done so far (I have one more full day here, so there’s not a lot left to do):

– asking questions about EVERYTHING about Israel, Palestine, Arab/Israeli relations, how Christians/Jews/Muslims/everyone else gets along, etc.
– driven through the Golan Heights and seen some Druid ruins (as well as driven by a coffee shop called Kofi Annan, which means “cloud coffee” in Hebrew, and happens to be near a UN base as well – clever!)
– learn some new Hebrew words like “mud” (bots), “fruit” (perot), and “what’s up” (manishma)
– seen Jordan, Syria and Lebanon across the border fences (which happen to be electric fences, ouch)
– listened to a news report in English (very rare in Israel) about Indonesia on a Jordanian radio channel while driving to the Dead Sea
– felt the water of the Dead Sea (which is so salty it feels oily, and you can’t put your head under water because the salt will find a way to get into your eyes – also you can practically sit up straight in the water because it makes you super buoyant). The shore is mostly salt, which has accumulated over time, and the water is an amazing shade of green blue. It is a very strange and beautiful place. The water is rapidly disappearing though – around 40 years ago it was about 25 meters higher than it is today. This is happening for 2 reasons: 1) factories on the sea shore are using water from the sea to process the extraction of Dead Sea minerals; and 2) rainfall is not keeping up with the water that is evaporating/being used by the factories. Most efforts to get more water into the Sea (either by piping it from the Mediterranean or the Sea of Galilee) would disrupt the Sea’s ecosystem, and other conservation efforts would cost billions of dollars. We’ll see what happens, but it’s not looking so good for the Dead Sea. Get here while you can! It’s also the lowest point on dry land at 418m/1,371ft below sea level.
– brought Gorontalo kerawang cookies and fabric to give as presents to my family here – Gorontalo meets Alon HaGalil (which means “the Galilee Oak Tree” by the way)
– went to Nazareth to see the Church of the Annunciation where Mary supposedly recieved the news that she would give birth to Jesus. My favorite part was the art of Mary and (sometimes) Jesus that came from countries all over the world and ranged from quite traditional to very modern.
– went to Haifa to see the exquisite terraces of the Baha’i Gardens and learned about the religion a little
– went to Akko (known as Acre in English) just north of Haifa to see the old city built by the Romans and go to the fabulous market there
– ate AMAZING food (most of it involving tahini, or trina in Hebrew, which is in lots of things sweet and savory). Highlights have included chalva (tahini mixed with sugar and sometimes nuts or coffee or other tasty things), hummus (of course), “Turkey” salad (tomatoes and hot peppers and other delicious things mixed up together), Michal’s famous cooking of soups, rice dishes, quinoa, etc. The most amazing dairy on earth is also found here – I will never think of cottage cheese the same way now that I’ve had it here!
– went to see Masada, a group of ruins of ancient palaces and forts on top of a pleateau near the Dead Sea. Allegedly, when the Romans tried to retake the city from the rebels living there, they all killed themselves rather than be taken hostage.
– hung around Tel Aviv University, which is really beautiful!
– went to Jerusalem to see the Western Wall, the City of David and just walk around the old city. I couldn’t go into some places, like the mosque, Al-Aqsa (Jews apparently aren’t allowed and it wouldn’t have been safe for me to go by myself). We went to see the Dead Sea Scrolls (pieces of the text that became the Bible and were preserved for centuries in caves near the Dead Sea) at the Jerusalem Museum as well.
– got to hang out with some amazing people. Hemyah and Meitar are now 13 and 9, and I last saw them when they were 10 and 6 respectively. Both were really shy and didn’t want to talk to me. Now Hemyah plays with my hair and we talk as best we can about American music, and Meitar wishes me good night and good morning in English every day. The whole family has been amazing to me and I can’t wait to come back and visit again!

I can’t believe that in less than 48 hours I will be home. Once again, I am mostly excited and somewhat nervous. I’ll miss all the places and people I love, always, but it’ll be nice to take off my coat and stay for a few months.


One Response to “Sampai Jumpa Indonesia, Shalom Israel!”

  1. Jas December 18, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    It sounds like you’ve had such an AMAZING time in Israel! I can’t wait to see you in less than 10 days! Safe travels, miss you, and love you 🙂

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