Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I, too, could star in Dead Poet's Society

First, I made my kids roar as loudly as they could.

Then I made them stand on a desk one at a time, on a teacher's desk to be precise, with the neon blue light of my overhead projector illuminating their faces and a yellow flashlight casting dramatic shadows from below.

As each student stood at the podium, towering over the rest of the cheering class, he/she belted out an original poem. Some students railed against mosquitoes, homework, small communities, poetry writing, unrealistic expectations, or the English language. Others questioned norms, money, or stereotypes. Students cheered each other on as rules were re-negotiated or the SATs mocked.

I finished my day with the resounding conviction: poetry slams with teenagers are really fun :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jetlag, how I hate you.

I have been intending to compose an eloquent post detailing my escapades around Turkey for about a week now. However, jetlag has rendered me completely useless. Never in my life have I experienced such intense after-effects of crossing just 7 time-zones. I still (7 days later) find myself waking up at random hours in the middle of the night. I feel as though I have been a walking zombie for days on end!

I swear one of these days my energy will return, and hopefully my ability to string words together into coherent phrases will accompany it. In the meantime, my trip in brief: amazing!

Links to my facebook albums:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Exploring Israel, Egypt, and Jordan

As my time in Israel is coming to a close, I am pausing to reflect on my two weeks in the Holy Land. While in Israel, I've traversed the deserts, bobbed in the Dead Sea, shared Shabbat dinner with a table of rabbis, welcomed in the new year with a room full of wildly-free-spirited dancers, snorkled in the Dead Sea, walked miles up and down stone roads, and prayed in the sites of Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection. I've had the opportunity to travel to Jerusalem, Ein Gedi, Masada, Bethlehem, Eilat, and Gaililee with my friend and former co-worker, Elizabeth. My longtime (high school) friend Gail has hosted me and helped me understand some of the nuances of this place. Along the way, I have also met many people who have each added a new brush stroke on my mental picture of this complex place: Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, a French-speaking Russian, Brazilian siblings,an Argentinian underwear model, Canadian missionaries, Mexican-American Catholics, American tourists, British couch surfers, Dutch pilgrims, 21-year-olds and 57-year-olds, amusing bus drivers and gruff drivers who curtly slam doors on waiting customers, hostel owners, Arab pastors, and Nigerian tour groups.

I've been struck that Israel is a place of layers, both literal and figurative. In the Old City of Jerusalem, new homes and stores rest atop the remnants of ancient roads and shop facades. Muslim mineretes greet Christian worshipers exiting famous churches. An Ethiopian village sits on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Jewish seminaries dwell blocks from Armenian monasteries. On a more figurative level, history and the present are merged and patched togetrher into a complex multicultural tapestry. This land maintains a tedious balance of tolerance and religious fervor. Words cannot fully capture the odd yet beautiful juxtaposition of faiths, sites, and people in this place.

During my two week trip, I also had the opportunity to make brief jaunts into both Jordan and Egypt. I marveled at the expansive canyons and intricate craftmanship of Petra in Jordan. I rode a camel beside the pyramids in Cairo and heard volumes of Egyptian history and lore from a licensed Egyptologist. I saw King Tut's tombs, stood inches away from real mummies, and sat in the shadows of the Sphinx. All-in-all, fantastic excursions.

Monday I depart from Israel and head to Turkey for 4 days. Gail will explore Istanbul with me and I will take a one day whirlwind trip to explore Ephesus with a tour group.

As always, I am struck that I live a blessed life. While it has been sad to be so far from family during the holidays, these experiences will stick with me for life. I am so grateful for these opportunities.