Published: November 4th 2005November 4th 2005
Talk about a strange 2 months. I had some hesitation about leaving Thailand earlier than I expected, felt like maybe I should have explored the area more, but one of the most striking things about my recent travels has been the contrasts between all the places I have been. First, Thailand, land of amazing food (oh man, do I miss it), coconut milk shakes, sandy beaches, cheap markets, and wandering around alone wondering what the hell to do with myself. Then Paris, a city that just oozes charm. I swear, just being there gave me a high. (Luckily my roommate here lives just outside Paris so now I have 2 people I can crash with when I go back.)
Then driving from there to Spain, seeing the gorgeous countryside lit up with autumn leaves, going to Cathedrals and castles, eating at Tapas bars, being with other people all the time. It is remarkable how different it is from being alone. Different thoughts, different anxieties, different pleasures and needs... We went to Bordeaux where we ate cotton candy at a fair and watched teenagers roam drunk and unbridled through the streets, stopped at San Sabastian for a day where we traced the waterline and then hid from the rain in a coffee shop for 3 hours, unsuccessfully trying to do a crossword puzzle. Then to a small village I don't even know the name of but where my friend's family owns a house and where Alexis and I played with the most excited and lonely, and dirtiest puppy I have ever encountered, where we wandered past other villages tucked into the countryside.
Then I got to Madrid and spent time with my Mom and sis for a few days (and Dad for one), went shopping as all my clothes from Thailand were very worn out, went to parks and art museums (I have a newfound love for Picasso after going to the Picasso Museum in Paris - otherwise known as the Musee D'Picasso - and seeing the Guernica in Madrid), appreciated yet another metro system, and hid from the rain trying unsuccessfully to do yet another crossword puzzle. Madrid was very different from Paris, more modern, less dreamy. It was nice to speak in Spanish for a few days, even if it did mess up my Hebrew a bit when I got to Israel.
Had a 6 hour layover in Athens where I ate a really great Greek salad, got into Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv at 4 AM, was driven to Arad with some elderly Russians, and was immediately given my room and then made to take a Hebrew test which was possibly the most difficult Hebrew test I've ever taken - on 5 hours of airplane and cab sleep. Did a bunch of orientation things which weren't exactly thrilling, met my roommate, a really nice, quiet girl who knows 5 languages, although not fluently, and laughs at most of my jokes when she understands them. What a blessed relief to unpack my bags and know I will be staying here for longer than a month. I calculated that in the past 5 months I have not been anywhere for longer than 3 and a half weeks, and have been in 14 states and 6 countries. It has been pretty exhausting.
Then for the past 2 days we went on a trip into the Negev, the desert in the south of Israel. That was where the contrasts of all of these countries really hit me. Maybe it was the striking difference between the white ridges of the desert and the bright blue sky that got me thinking about juxtaposition. Neither would look as vibrant, as white or as blue, without the other. I pictured Kao San Rd in Bangkok, swarming with travellers in baggy pants and bright skirts, food vendors and balloon sellers, neon signs flashing in the dark...the lush Thai forest, the waterfalls and elephants, endless gold and red temples every block of Chiang Mai, the feel of a Thai masseuse's hands pressing my back through a thin shirt. Then Paris and all its charm, cold light leaking through the stained glass of Notre Dame, gobbling bread on the metro, a $5 cappucino... Then nighttime in Madrid, stopping to take a photo of my Mom and sister walking under umbrellas in the rain, streetlight reflections smudged on the pavement, a line of trees protecting us from the street. Now Israel, and so many people (I went from being utterly alone to being surrounded by 60 people in 2 weeks) and the dry, warm desert, the bright blue sky, the ancient layers of stone.
Then last night, one of the best times I've had in a year, or possibly years, sitting up till 2 AM singing next to a bonfire with 3 amazingly talented musicians, before passing out under the stars. They were so bright - someone said she saw 7 shooting stars.
So yeah. My wanderings have taken on a bit of stability. There is so much to learn from seeing and moving and doing, from aloneness and loneliness and knowing that the 3 shirts and 2 pairs of pants in your bag is all you have and all you need, from making your own plans and wandering, from slowing down and contemplating. And there is a lot to learn from putting everything down and putting down roots, from going grocery shopping, buying olive oil and cutting boards and dish detergent and knowing that you can cook your own food and create your own life in a new way. This world is full of endless possibilities. I am overwhelmed.