A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: JulesCV

In Anticipation of the End

Or maybe the beginning.

I am riding in a sherut, a shared taxi, right now (okay, it took me a few days to post this first part) on my way back to Jerusalem from Nazareth. Three friends and I went there for the night. Nazareth was a good place to do some thinking.

I leave Jerusalem at 2am Tuesday morning. Od hamisha yamim. Cinco dias mas. Five more days. I can't believe this experience is over. I can't really believe I did it, what it became and how simultaneously strong and humble I feel.

I haven't written since I arrived back in Jerusalem at the hostel over 2 months ago. It has been such an interesting time. Challenging, so challenging. Strengthening. Growth-inducing. So much to say about this place. The people, their ways, the streets, the land, the days, the moments. Stories will follow. But as I think about leaving, or rather about returning after all of the travel, I wonder how I am different.

The other night I was at a friends' house in Mevesseret just outside Jerusalem, and I couldn't sleep. It was 4am, and I grabbed a piece of cake from his fridge and went to sit on a small wall overlooking the outskirts of Jerusalem. I thought about this question of how I am different. I have had moments of pure freedom. Of wanderment and wonderment. Plenty. They have given me such joy and life but they have not changed me necessarily. I said before I left, I will be satisfied with my trip if I return and say, I didn't see everything there is to see but ah, it was glorious because I lived. I have lived. And I have found that I am not filled only with light. I have found circumstances that challenge me and make if difficult to have a kind word for everyone. I have found it difficult, at times, to love. But I have found on the heels of this a resilience, a determination, a commitment to love. I am different because I feel more strongly than ever my own longing to love the people around me and am also more aware of how hard that can be at times. I have found in myself things I hadn't known so intimately before. Not exhaustively but among them, Strength, Beauty, Imperfection, Tenderness.

I have connected most here to two things, I think.

First, Shabbat. I love Jerusalem in large part because of Shabbat.

Every Friday in the afternoon everyone is making preparations. Shops are closing up, the market is craziness.

Everyone is preparing to rest.

By 18:00, 6pm, the streets are empty and at around 19:30, when the sun goes down, the horn blows in the city to mark the entrance of Shabbat. For about 27 hours the city is quiet. If you walk down Jaffa Street, Ben Yehuda Street, Agrippas Street on Saturday you see almost no one. Usually filled with people, it is then filled with Shabbat. There are a couple of coffeeshops, at night a few bars, a convenience store here and there for the nonreligious but all in all, the city is at rest. They are choosing rest over profit, over consumption, over productivity. For some it is religiously driven, for others tradition, for others culture. And each Friday evening I have had dinner in community. The first week I was here I was invited to someone's home for dinner and it was lovely. The next week that I was in Jerusalem I began a Shabbat dinner for the guests of the hostel and every week since, until a couple weeks ago, have been here helping visitors to the city experience a bit of this aspect of its culture. We all cook and eat together. We do the Kiddush ceremony and explain the traditions. The last few weeks I was with friends again in their homes and yesterday, my last Shabbat in Jerusalem, I returned to the home of the friend who first invited me when I arrived. I am feeling a deep desire to continue this observance of rest when I return to the States. It gives me such life for the rest of my week. I will miss Jerusalem for this.

I have connected also to the Complexity of this place. I am consistently and intimiately in touch with my own complexity as a human being, in my mind, heart and spirit, and I see the complexity of humanity reflected in everything here. Very few things are simple. Diversity is piled into small spaces; differences stare each other in the eye at close range; thoughts have considerations on every side within and without; contraditions live as if there is no alternative. There is an energy in this. Energy created by the negotiation of the Other, friction when actually moving past and brushing against the Other, energy in injury and healing when collisions with the Other occur, energy in conflict and in frustrated lack of resolution. The buzz of the energy is wearing, which is alleviated in part by Shabbat, but in so many ways it is honest and truthful and commendable.

I have found favorite falafel places (on Jaffa across from Cafe Hillel), favorite bars (Sira), favorite parks (Independence Garden with its stream running through to walk in). I have made close friends. I have scuba dived in the Red Sea. I have played Love the Way You Lie at Sunday Live Music Night so many times. I have learned so much Hebrew. I have eaten a lot of tomato, cucumber and cottage cheese sandwiches for free. I have looked Love in the eye. I have made mi amiga cry. I have danced in the Market and so many other places and laughed til I cried about huge, hyperactive Argentinian babies. I have learned that connectedness, closeness, love do not depend on sight, sound, words, touch. And still, I will miss my friends.

Europe treated me and Israel has taught me. Europe was a game of thrill and newness and the luxury of recreation and rest. Israel has been life with so much to contend with, discover and learn. I can't wait to share it all with you, in words and stories and in the ways it has seaped into my spirit and comes out in my life.

Shalom ve Ohev ve Or. Paz y Amor y Luz. Peace and Love and Light.
See you soon.
Julia

Posted by JulesCV 09:10 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Making My Place

And Doing Things.

I've been here in Jerusalem volunteering at the hostel for a little over a week now, and I am really finding my place here. It has been a wonderful week. I have met some really beautiful people and worked to create 3 weekly events already here at the hostel. One was quite purposeful and commissioned by the founder and the other two were somewhat incidental and products of open, organic living.

The commissioned event is Pub Night Out on Thursday nights. We had our first one this past Thursday in which I took 5 guests from the hostel out to a local club for drinks and dancing. Turns out we went out a bit early for the crowd and height of the dancing but I think it will turn into a fun thing for guests soon. They still seemed to really like it and were glad to go out while here in Jerusalem.

Then on Friday, I offered to make Shabbat dinner for one of the guys who works here and Chaucee, my roommate and fellow volunteer, and myself. So I went to the shuk (market) to get everything we needed and got a little extra, so when I got back I invited a few guests who were sitting around the common room to join us. A few came to help me cook and others kept coming in and by the time we sat down, we were eating with 17 people and the food I bought turned out to be more than enough for all of us! It was so beautiful to see everyone sitting around the table together, talking to new people, laughing, eating. It was really wonderful. And so now Chaucee and I have instituted Shabbat dinner hosted by the volunteers every Friday. I'm so excited about it because it brought people together and seemed to make them really happy. And they were all really impressed with my cooking skills (even though I had a bit of help at the end with the seasoning from a friend who trained as a chef :)) We had... stir-fry with beets, eggplant, peppers, onion, carrots, apple, garlic and chicken with teryaki and sweet chili sauces, brown rice, salad, corn, potato hash, hummus and bread, challah bread and wine. Mmm. You can see some pictures here.

And then last night, on Sunday, I played a concert in the common room here at hostel. Between guests, staff and friends there were about 50-60 people there, and it was really amazing. My voice is different now because I have been smoking since traveling (yes, I know, it's terrible) but I think it still sounded nice (and it is not permanently changed. with some tea and no cigarettes it will be back in no time :)). People enjoyed it. Mostly, though, when I was finished I got some comments that it had created a beautiful vibe in the place. There were people getting a little emotional and almost everyone was totally engaged. When I heard that, I didn't give a rip how I had sounded. Maybe even for the first time after a performance. The music was truly not the end. It was a means to the space it created, the togetherness it facilitated, the feelings it incited. They asked me to play again next week but I told them I think Sundays should be live music night for all different musicians. So next week I think we'll have a few people play a few songs each. Maybe I'll be one of them but maybe not. And now Sunday is Live Music Night at the hostel! So cool!

I've decided not to go to South Africa and extend my stay in Israel. Once I stopped moving from place to place, it's hard to think of doing it again. And I am feeling invested here. In addition to these things, I am helping with the composting and rooftop garden and considering recording some music while I'm here. Right now the idea is to volunteer for 3 more weeks and then stay 2 more to travel around before coming back via a week in Paris. It could possibly be extended a bit more but I'll have to see how money and things go.

I am excited about working in the hostel and feel like the hospitality industry could potentially be a really good fit for me. In a hostel or B&B setting. Making people feel at home when they are not, bringing people together, serving people. Feels right and good and alive to me.

I have the day off so I'm headed out...I don't know where. But it's a beautiful day (much like every day here) so I ought to go somewhere. We'll see. This week I'll go to the Market Party in the main shuk just around the corner tonight (live music and dancing in the streets of the market), out for pub night Thursday, make Shabbat dinner Friday, go to a big lunch/dinner at a friend's Saturday, go to Ramallah with a friend and then play/host live music night Sunday. It will all be fun. What a life. Soaking it in for all it's worth.

Hoping for each of you days of full and relevant thought and full and sincere love. Looking forward to sharing those kinds of days with you in person again soon! Much love.

Posted by JulesCV 03:25 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Back in Jeru

And settling in just fine.

Hello hello hello. Shalom shalom. I am back in Jerusalem and really happy. It's amazing how the flow of the trip has gone so well. I feel in a perfect time and space to be settling somewhere for a while. I feel like I could be here forever.

The day before I was to return to Jerusalem (this past Friday) I was in Tel Aviv and got a call from one of the guys working at the hostel we had stayed at in Jerusalem. He said they had a volunteer cancel and were short-staffed and asked if I would be interested in volunteering for a couple of weeks while I'm here. It's 5-6 hours of work 5 days a week in exchange for a free room and breakfast. I said I'd think about it because it would tie me to Jerusalem for the majority of my time left in Israel and tie up some of my time. But I realized that this would be a really good way to ween me off of my wandering and start to reintroduce me into responsible, accountable society. Of course it's barely anything but compared to the days I've been living for 8 weeks now, it's an adjustment! So the plan now is that I'm here two weeks and then have a few days before flying out of Amman, Jordan on the 10th. The plan is up for revision, so we'll see.

So I am here at the hostel now and learning the ropes. Served breakfast this morning and then escorted a group of guests down to the Old City for their tour (did not GIVE their tour, obviously). Then had a meeting with the owner and a couple others to figure out ways to make the hostel more fun for guests like pub nights, movie nights, concerts. Which, incidentally, is another cool thing. Each volunteer, in addition to daily responsibilities, has a project that they are working on, social media development, translating, writing blog articles. And because I am here just a short time (volunteers are usually required to stay at least a month), my project is to play a concert in the hostel next week for a social event. So cool, huh? I hope it will be.

It has been fun making friends with both the staff, who are from Jerusalem and Israel, and the other volunteers. My roommate now is Chaucee, a great girl from Philly. And Jeff, from Israel/the US, and Josephina, from Argentina, are the other two volunteers. And the staff, Sophia, Ibrahim, Josh and others, are really great too. It's a nice place to be spending my time.

Jerusalem is a very interesting place. There is a lot happening here within, between and in spite of the people. I am very wary to comment too much because it is definitely the most complicated place I've ever been and the place I feel least qualified to analyze or comment on. But with that said, life here is tense and intense. People have not been at all rude to me, in fact quite the opposite. They are friendly, willing to help with anything and very open. But if you have even one conversation with almost any one of them, you realize how much they have on their mind, how much is swirling around their perspective, how much pain, animosity, pride, sincerity they have. In contrast, it makes not only America but everywhere I've been feel quite simple. And on more than one occasion it has broken my heart. Yet this does not paint the streets. There is still a joy, hope and vibrancy here that wafts through the air. People are spirited and honest and open, at least in my experience.

I am processing here. I am still and thinking. There is something about this place that, while having so much of itself to show me, has the remarkable ability to show me myself as well. It feels illuminating, a little frightening, but overall it does seem exciting. This is partly why the plan is up for revision. This place feels like a culmination, a climax. This may be the note I want to end on, so to speak. But we shall see.

In the pursuit of understanding, appreciation and deeply human respect, all my best.

Posted by JulesCV 02:39 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Israel

In a Teeny Tiny Nutshell

Here I sit in CafeCafe in Nahariya, Israel. Haven't had Internet in a while and now am just on my little iPod. But I haven't been in touch in a while so here's a flash look at the last several days.

Istanbul was beautiful. I wish so much that I had had more time there. So much to learn from the culture. So many wonderful people to meet. It is, perhaps, giving Aix en Provence a run for its money as my favorite place.

Israel has also been wonderful. Seeing Heather has been great, though it took me a bit of time to adjust to being with somone else all the time after being alone for so long! We spent 3 days in Jerusalem, seeing some sights, going to some local live music and joining a new friend in his home for shabbat dinner. Then Saturday we headed to the Dead Sea with a couple new Palestinian friends and camped there and then went to Masada and camped in the middle of nowhere and hiked it the next day. Then after hiking we took the bus north to the Kinnaret (Sea of Galilee) and camped and swam. And today we hitchhiked to Tiberias and took the bus to Haifa and then to Nahariya and will probably be here until Friday morning when we head to Tel Aviv for Heather to catch her flight on Saturday evening. And then I'll go back to Jerusalem to help a new friend with some projects he has to do.

It has been a great week here with lots of new friends and kind people. There is lots more to tell but this is enough for now I think! I am mostly learning about who I am and how to understand what I've learned while traveling in the context of a friend from home. It's a little trickier than I anticipated but is a good preparation for coming back.

I am super dirty, a little sunburned and feeling tired but so strong. Best way to be I think! Love you all very much and am sending you full, warm desert life. Sending you the understanding of what matters and what does not...I mean the desire to learn this distinction more each day. :) Sending you shalom and goodness.

Posted by JulesCV 08:28 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Istanbul

Almost out of Europe

I arrived in Istanbul this evening and thought that the journey deserved a short post.

I tried to take the bus at 10pm last night from Thessaloniki which would have gotten me here at 8am this morning BUT this bus recently changed ownership and changed its pickup location. Therefore, Mike and I waited for the bus last night about 3 blocks from where it was picking people up. So we headed home, searched and found the right information and went to the right place this morning for the 10am bus. I was looking forward to having the day in the city today and instead spent it enjoying beautiful views of Greece and Turkey from my surprisingly comfortable seat on the bus. And had I not waited until this morning, I would not have met Gala, a completely lovely German girl who is working in Istanbul and had taken a trip to Thessaloniki. We spent much of the ride talking and laughing. When we got to Istanbul she told me a better way than the way I had planned to get where I was going and pointed me in the right direction...thank goodness! She was even going the same way for part of the way. And before we diverged she gave me her phone number, and we made plans to meet for dinner on Monday night.

So that was wonderful, and then, when she went her way and I mine, I navigated my way to my hostel by myself and for the first time I actually felt like I was traveling alone. I found a bank machine, took the little tram to the tramway and the tramway to the stop just a few blocks from my hostel. A nice guy showed me how to buy a tram token and a whole group of Dutch men in town for a "guy's weekend" at the Formula 1 made really funny conversation with me on the tramway. And then I arrived at my hostel, which was so easy to find, and was greeted by John with, "Hi! Julia?" Oooh, so nice! I was shown my bed and given tea and engaged in lovely conversation. Then I wrote a bit, read a bit, got the skinny on the sights and then had an amazing shower. And now, I am in my comfy nightgown at the computer in the common space, surrounded by happy travellers. Well, many of them are sleeping but there are a few still up.

I am within a 10 minute walk of most of the sights here in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar. Topkapi Palace. Tomorrow, I thought, was supposed to be rainy but now they say it will be sunny! So tomorrow will be a great day I think! I really am feeling energized and so proud of myself, quite capable and alive.

I have been reading Abraham Heschel's The Sabbath and I wanted to share a few thoughts I've been thinking on. They are a lot to read all at once, but the second and the last are my favorite.

"There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern."

"Reality to us is thinghood,...The result of our thinginess is our blindness to all reality that fails to identify itself as a thing."

"Menuha is the same as happiness and stillness, as peace and harmony. ...It is the state wherein man lies still, wherein the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest. It is the state in which there is no strife and no fighting, no fear and no distrust."

"Out of the days through which we fight and from whose ugliness we ache, we look to the Sabbath as our homeland,...[we] reclaim our authentic state,...we are what we are, regardless of whether we are learned or not, of whether our career is a success or a failure; it is a day of independence of social conditions."

Good thoughts for all of your strong minds. :) More soon. Much love from Turkey.

Posted by JulesCV 14:18 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Thessaloniki and Kulata

More from the Balkans

Hello all. I am feeling a little weary of writing, but perhaps only because it is the evening of a long day of fun and community. I went up to Panorama (Puh-NOR-uh-muh) to visit with friends of Mike's, a beautiful family with 21-month-old triplets and others. Good food and good fun and more music.

It has been a great week in Greece. I have met a lot of wonderful people here. Mike, Rami, Jacovos, Michel, Joseph, and others have been sources of good conversation, thought, music, and more. Here in Thessaloniki, there are active archaeological digs in the middle of the main street and 5th century churches every few blocks. The waterfront boardwalk-like area, or "paralia," provides the perfect post-meal walk which we have done every evening that I've been here. We have usually stopped at the umbrella sculpture to turn around, but last night we made it quite a bit farther to "The New Paralia" which opened just 3 years ago. Last night on our way back from our walk we ran into a protest happening in the streets and were a few blocks away from it until it starting moving towards us, and we had to duck into a side path to a restaurant while it passed by us and then came back past again. There was tear gas, but not right where we were, that made small explosion sounds and lots of protesters on motorcycles and on foot yelling followed by policemen also on motorcycle and foot. Crazy and apparently pretty common here in Thess.

Also yesterday, Mike and I went to Agio Demetrius, one of the 5th century churches. I asked if we could just sit for a while, so we did. It took me quite a while to let my mind slow down from the trip arranging I'd been doing in the morning and the talking we'd done on the way there, but when I did, I really entered a beautifully peaceful place. I am not one to meditate, but I do believe that meditating must be similar to what I did there. The church is a visually beautiful space and had soft chanting playing throughout. I sat a long time, and as I realized that we may need to go at some point, I found myself not wanting to go, not wanting to leave that mental, spiritual or physical space. But I realized then that the purpose of going to that place is to find rest and an abundance of virtue with which to be filled. And the point of being filled is to then pour virtue into the world by way of love for others. And you have to leave in order to love. It was good.

On Monday and Tuesday I went to Kulata, Bulgaria to visit my good friend, Vesi's, family. I went to stay with her mother, father, brother, his wife and their daughter. It was such a nice time. They were incredibly hospitable to me, even loaning me clothes to wear because I had run out of the house to catch the bus with nothing but my toothbruth to stay over with! We saw the Rojen Monastery and the views it affords. We ate great food, as always, including my favorite, moussaka. They speak very little English, and so many of my interactions involved learning the Bulgarian alphabet, very similar to the Cyrillic that I learned in Serbia. At the village coffeeshop/diner on Tuesday I spent a lot of time "talking" with Geri, Vesi's 7-year-old neice, where she would tell me the Bulgarian word for something and then I would sound it out and spell it on a piece of paper. I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked and maybe didn't explore as I would have liked to either, but I think this was partly being thrown off by the language barrier and not having any of my things with me. I really loved their small village, and the landscapes surrounding it are so beautiful. All in all, of course, it was such a wonderful time to see where Vesi is from and to see her family and experience their hospitality.

We saw trees, in Bulgaria on our way to the monastery as we passed Milnek, the country's oldest and smallest town, that were growing out of what looked like rock cliffs. The rock was so dry looking and most of the hill/mountain was bare, but at the top or along one ridge would be a tree or a few trees. I wondered how they grew in that place, in that condition. And then I thought, man, I think I might like to aspire to be that tree. To grow and live and even thrive in less-than-ideal conditions. In soil that is less than rich. In a dry place, a bare place, even a lonely place. To be so resilient, so hearty, so strong.

Tomorrow night, Friday, I will take a bus to Istanbul and arrive there Saturday morning. Today I booked my first hostel of my trip for my stay there. I'll be there Saturday morning until Tuesday afternoon when I fly to Tel Aviv. As a matter of coincidence, my friend from college, Carrie, who is currently studying in Dublin, is in Istanbul now for a conference and will be there until Tuesday as well. So we will be able to see the city together! Before I leave tomorrow night, I am trying to decide what to do in my last day in Greece. There is an absolutely incredible place called Meteora that is 4 hours' bus ride away that I would really love to see. I have been told that is unique in all the world with huge pillars of rock going straight up with monasteries at the tops. I have seen Mike's pictures and know that it would be an amazing place to go. However, that would mean taking the bus from here 8:30-12:30 in the morning and then leaving at 4pm to get back here by 8pm and taking the 10pm bus to Istanbul for 12 hours. 20 hours on the bus in 26 hours. I am here, so close! I have to go! But...perhaps I will regret it. Perhaps I would rather take the day to walk by myself around town, to another church, maybe to the beach an hour or so away, to the paralia. I think I am leaning towards the latter.

I am walking a line between worry and not worry in anticipation of Israel. I don't have so many plans for being there and am not sure how I will spend all of the time that I have there. I really don't mind this but I don't want to get in trouble at the border again for not having plans and I don't want to be unsafe in not knowing enough. So, I will figure some things out maybe but also, I have done a good job not spending money so far so hanging in Jerusalem, staying in a hostel for a while will be just fine. I am really looking forward to this part of things.

My, my, my, what am I doing. How am I still gone? What am I doing here? Am I crazy? I think we recently passed vacation status and entered whole-period-in-life status. Sunday will be 6 weeks away and by then 11 countries visited. I used to be able to hold my experience so far in my hand at once but not what was to come. Then I think after Italy I could hold each in my hand, what had been and what was coming. Now, I don't feel like I can hold what I've already done in my hand all at once. So much. But now I easily know what is before me. And I know that both that which I hold and that which exceeds my grasp is good and within me somewhere!

For being weary, I sure did have a lot to say. Ha. Goodnight and good days to you all!

Posted by JulesCV 10:15 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Beograd

Posturing in Eastern Europe

I am in Thessaloniki, Greece now. I arrived this morning at 7am on a bus from Belgrade, Serbia. It was a 12-hour bus ride but flew by as I now feel like a seasoned traveler, unphased by hours of cramped transport. We went through Macedonia to get here, and I slept essentially not at all. So, upon arriving in Thess, I walked the 30 minutes to meet my friend, Mike, near his apartment and proceeded to come inside and crash for 2 hours before venturing out to see the city. He went to church while I slept, and then I awoke to a delicious brunch he made for us and two friends...

Ah but I am not writing to tell you about Greece! I have to tell report on Belgrade. I was there from Sunday morning at 11am until Friday at 6pm. I was visiting my friend and roommate from college, Ruthie, which I think I mentioned earlier. It was so good to see her and to be with a friend. She was a wonderful host, and I left feeling like I had seen so much of the city and yet also feeling rested and revived. We went to the Kalemegdan Fortress at dusk, beautiful. We took a driving tour of the sights of Belgrade, including Eastern Europe's largest Orthodox temple, the Parliament building and a few bombed buildings left over from the war. This precipitated a conversation about the recent history of Eastern Europe, one I was glad to have and a topic about which I was glad to be further enlightened. We did lots of things, and I wrote down my favorites:

-Walking along the Sava River riverwalk at night, so beautiful with a view of the city and music wafting over from the island, Ada, walking past boat cafes all along it.
-Kalemegdan Fortress at dusk, beautiful lighting and structures and lots to explore with a friend.
-Lunch at a restaurant called Everest, such delicious Paneer curry and an avocado/tofu/miso salad and then pumpkin cheesecake and choclate cake and tea for dessert. Mmm.
-Wednesday evening i learned the Cyrillic alphabet and was able to then read Serbian because it is a completely phonetic language. So after beginning to learn it while we drank coffee, we walked around to shop for a few things and I could practice reading all the signs. That felt good to make notable progress at a language while traveling. Greek is similar, and so I have pretty much learned its alphabet now as well.
-I also slept really well in Belgrade. That might be my very favorite part.
-And I ate good food. Burek, Hot-dog-in-croissant, Plazma espresso shake, good cappucinos.

The bit about posturing is that I observed a key difference in Belgrade from all the other places I've been. A difference in myself, and it felt like a change in posture. Like I had been standing upright with a hole in my chest and heart, open and receiving all that the world could throw at me. Sun shining in brightly. But in Belgrade I slumped slightly as if in relief and relaxation, and the hole in me both received and poured out. My head slightly shaded its opening, and I found rest in this posture. I shared and I received and I rested in the shade of myself. Mah, I always turn things into weird pictures, but still, it is how I felt.

I have been thinking a lot, and won't share everything. Thinking, though, about how to convince oneself of something outside of and beyond being told by others. How to make yourself believe something deep inside you when you refuse to believe others and even your own mind. When conviction resists persuasion. I don't know. But I would like to.

This will be a good week of conversation. Deep, meaningful, relevant and productive conversation is never in short supply when I talk with Mike. Already we have walked through so much thought as we walked through the city. Tomorrow we will go to the Jewish History Museum and then to play music with some friends on the paralia, the waterfront. Monday I will go to Kulata, Bulgaria to visit Vesi's family. And Friday I take a bus to Istanbul. Before then I am hoping to take a bus out to Mount Olympus. It will be a good week. I can feel the end of this jumping-around portion of the trip approaching. After Istanbul I will be in Israel for a longer while and then South Africa and then home. Hmm.

Thinking of you all. Missing you and hoping you are well. Feeling distant from you but hoping I am not forgotten! I certainly have not lost sight of any of you! Much love. And peace.

Posted by JulesCV 11:13 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)

Italia

82 hours.

It feels like I just posted but a lot has happened in the last few days. This may work best as a run-down of the events.

Thursday, like I said, I spent the entire day in the apartment and slept a lot and rested. It was good for me.

Friday I explored Perugia, the oldest city in Italy. I saw the Etruscan Arch, the oldest thing in Perugia, and Rocca Paolina, the underground original Perugia on top of which was built the city as it is today. There were tons of booths set up in the streets, which I thought was typical but was told was special for the weekend. Good timing. In the evening I had a bit of a breakdown, just internally, feeling like I wasn't sure if I could keep going. A website wasn't letting me buy a plane ticket with my credit card again and I was just feeling so tired and discouraged. But I realized that I really needed to get some sleep before I dealt with all the trouble. So I went to sleep and slept very well.

Then Saturday, I got up not knowing where exactly I was going to go next or when but by noon I had booked a cheap flight from Rome to Belgrade, packed up, showered, eaten breakfast with the family I was staying with, taken a bus with them to the train station and was on a train headed for Rome. The only thing was, my flight was Sunday morning! So I got into Roma Termini train station at 330pm, checked my bag into baggage deposit there, bought a map of the city and started walking. I had 7 hours to see Rome before catching the last shuttle to the airport where I slept until my 915am flight. It was nice to have my sleeping bag,

I thought that would be no time and that I would get to see just one or two things in Rome but as it turns out I didn't even use all of my 7 hours because after walking at a good clip and pretty continuously for 5 hours, I was able to see a lot, was super tired, it was dark and had started to rain. So I headed back to the train station, ate a sandwich and got on the 9:30pm shuttle to the airport, but not before seeing the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Piazza Venezia, the Trevi Fountain, Trinita dei Monti, Piazza del Popolo and walking all the way to the Vatican. There I saw the line of people waiting to get into the Vatican for Easter. So many people there and so many people in Rome everywhere the day before Easter. In Rome, all of the "sights" are tucked into the city and have been completely built around, so as I was walking, I would be unsure just exactly where something was until a few blocks away I could see a massive crowd. As I approached it and passed the building beside it, suddenly, there was...the Trevi Fountain! or The Pantheon! It was funny. Then just as I left the Vatican it started to rain so I walked about an hour and a quarter at a good clip to get back to the train station. It was so nice. Every time it has rained on my trip it has felt refreshing.

Rome was beautiful, truly, but I decided, in going, to take the wise advice of my brother and not feel the need to take it into myself but, rather, to let it wash over me. I walked past and through some of the oldest, greatest structures in the world, and I only saw them, did not feel or experience them. And even so, they have, without doubt, affected me. How could they not? I am glad, in my fullness, to continue on in this way for now. I am most proud of myself, I think, for these 24 hours, from leaving Perugia to flying to Belgrade, because they have been the most on-my-own without a host or anyone to advise me or help me do things. I figured it out and was everywhere I needed to be at the right times, accounted for my things, saw a lot of Rome and even slept in the airport, cool. Like a real solo backpacker. Haha. I didn't realize how much I've been assisted by everyone until doing it alone was so exciting. Though I am still so grateful for my hosts; couldn't do it alone the whole time!!

I am learning once again that in my moments of fatigue and discouragement I almost always simply need sleep. I am needing more sleep on this trip than usual in life, which is only to be expected, and it is when I am not rested enough that I start to doubt myself, my plans and my ability to see them through. It is amazing how much better I feel in the morning.

In Belgrade I am with my friend from Gordon, Ruthie. It is the first time that I am staying with a good friend (until this point has been acquaintances and family), and it feels really good. We speak the same language about life and have so many reference points. Yesterday for Easter we went straight from the airport to a picnic with friends. It was great with both good food and a good nap on a blanket for me. I'll be here until Thursday and then head to Thessaloniki, Greece. A changed plan, a good plan. More adventures around every turn. Making me strong, resilient and confident.

Strength for your days and challenges as well.

Posted by JulesCV 01:09 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Aix-en-Provence

A French kindred spirit?

semi-overcast 65 °F

How the heck am I to know? I was only there 4 1/2 days! Haha.

But what I can say is that it has been my favorite stop so far. Was it the colors of the buildings, the aesthetic of the streets, the size and seeming know-ability of the city centre? Mm, was it the sun that never hid its face from me in four days and colored the peak of Sainte-Victoire in the evenings? Was it the family that welcomed me so sincerely, helped me make my way to, through and out of Aix, or the friends that showed me around, a good time and a glimpse of their true affection for and commitment to each other?

Yes. For all these reasons I loved my time in Aix. My days mingled among sights, sounds, textures and values as if perceiving them by one sense. The sunlight was a musician playing a beautiful song with the hues of the cliffs, water, storefronts, streets. The rocks we climbed were the kind of goodness that doesn't come easily but that you love all the more for it. The conversations among friends, both those of which I could and couldn't understand the words, were the warmth of a fire and the strong hands of an old friend on your shoulder.

Oh man, to the people I met there, I will seem crazy for speaking in such ways. It is just a home they know so well. Perhaps there is nothing special there, nothing so magical, but to me it was beautiful and is at home in beautiful words.

The nuts and bolts of the days included visiting and enjoying the views from the dam near Sainte-Victoire, the mountainous muse of Paul Cézanne, and the next day climbing it. A crazy climb using chains at times and feeling like I may die if I'm not careful more than once. We visited the Mediterranean in Cassis. Sat on the beach, waded in the cold water, and drove/climbed to the top of the highest cliff in France. I visited the city's outdoor markets with Isabelle- so fun and beautiful...the markets and Isabelle, of course. All year 'round on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday there are markets with flowers (tons), produce, fresh fish and seafood, antiques, clothes, jewelry and lots more. So awesome. The days were good. And the nights were so good too. Every night we went out until at least 3 and as late as 5am! Everyone was back in town for holidays and making the most of it. We always started at The Brigand to meet up with everyone and drink Pastis (the local alcohol that is the cheapest but not many people like and that made me cool because I did like it :). Then there was something to do after... another bar, dancing at the discothèque, a little jamming for a birthday. All so great but would have been, dare I say, nothing without good people like Aurélien, my exceptional host, Anthony, Alexandre, Adelaide and others (whose names do not all start with "A") who spoke English with me, taught me the ways and words of France, waited for my out-of-shape, American a$$ to get up the mountain and made me feel totally at home.

A return to Aix is undoubtedly in my future one day but for now I am in Perugia, Italy and taking the day to relax. Yesterday I took 5 trains from Aix to Nice to Ventimiglia to Milan to Florence to Perugia in 13 hours. It was similar to my way from Switzerland to Aix which was also 5 trains (Heerbrugg to St. Gallen to Geneva to Lyon to Avignon to Aix) in 14 hours. That's what happens when you're visiting obscure towns all over Europe!

I am feeling a little saturated these days. I'm not sure how much more I can absorb. And I worry about being in a place and not having any capacity to receive it. I think my plans may be altered a bit in the coming weeks but for the best, I think. The balance between being a free bird and being responsible to my kind and expecting hosts is a careful one to strike.

I suddenly worried the other day that all of my thinking, musing, analyzing, figuring was spent staring at myself. Who I am. My contribution. My spirit. My future. I am contradicting and negating myself if I say the answers to those things are about loving others. But then I read again a kind letter from a friend and realized that just because the time in my head is spent with and for myself, my life as a whole doesn't have to be and isn't necessarily. The time thinking about myself is meant to inform the time that is for others and benefit it by cultivating health, deliberateness, purpose, effectiveness, sincerity. Hopefully it is always a means to an end that is outwardly turned, and the problem only comes when it is the end itself at the expense or prohibition of the other.

I think.

In the surrealism of this time and a gratefulness for life and the things the world has afforded me, much love and e-bisous.

Posted by JulesCV 08:35 Archived in France Comments (2)

Last night in Switzerland

Resolution comes to the Wandering

semi-overcast 45 °F

It is my last night in Switzerland. I leave to go back to France tomorrow, to Aix-en-Provence. It has been a wonderful 8 days here with Uncle Doug and Aunt Cindy. I am sad to go, but they are convinced that I'll be back before returning to the States. We'll see... :)

Today... was a good day. Today... I finally got my hands on my new debit card. Hooray! I have been on the phone and internet with the bank so many times and been told so many inaccurate things about the situation, and today I called for a third time to insist on getting a tracking number for the card coming via FedEx, I found out that it was sitting 35 minutes away in a FedEx facility! When FedEx transferred the address from the bank envelope to its envelope, the "1" in the address became a "!" and they deemed it undeliverable! It was a good thing I called! So Cindy and I drove to pick it up and the saga is over. (I hope!) It's so cool to have money when you're in foreign countries; I like it better than not having money. It was a funny way to end with the weird typo mistake, especially an exclamation point.

Tomorrow I will leave here on the 10:02am train and arrive in Aix around 8pm. 10 hours and 4 trains. I am looking forward to it. After all this hiking and biking, my body might be shocked by the static-ness of the day, but I have really enjoyed the time on the trains so far and find that it goes quite quickly.

I have begun yet another endeavor for this trip. I think I have an addiction to projects. Makes me feel weird and yet, with all this time, it's a perfect opportunity to complete ongoing projects. Anyway, the project came up today when we were talking with Jodi, Cindy's friend who helped me resolve the bank issue by insisting that I nicely give the bank a piece of my mind and not take no shit from anyone! ...no prisoners! ......no for an answer. (I could use a little more Farley on this trip...) Anyway, the idea is to think of 1000 things for which you are grateful (taken from a book she was reading). So that is my new aim, in addition to the others. It will be good, I think. A thousand is a lot. I hope I don't lose interest. It's important to be grateful. At least it's really important to me.

I have a thought that I have been thinking a lot about. I'm going to try to explain it... I think about what I would be doing if there was nothing restraining or confining or should-ing me. No concerns for money or social norms or feasibility. For an hour or a day or my life. Where would I be and how would I spend my moments? Then I think about why I would want to do that. What end does that move me toward? What value does that realize? What good does that manifest in the world? I think of the behavior first and then think through the reason why I would choose that, not thinking of the end and then how to get there, not first the value and then how to realize it, but the other way around. I think this makes it more honest and insightful. There is more than one thing I could be doing and many reasons why. But each answer and each reason tells me something about the nature and qualities of who I am, and when I reintroduce the shoulds, the social norms, the feasibility, I am still that person who is now playing the game of realizing the unrealistic within the rules of the real. I hope you see what I am saying. It's about seeing yourself purely and then reinserting yourself into the world. It's just a thought that I have been thinking a lot about. I thought about it at 1369 in Cambridge and now I'm thinking about it here. I guess my head is bigger than my backpack, I could bring all my thoughts but only some of my clothes.

So I have visited six countries so far. Sunday will make 3 weeks away. The next few weeks will be busy busy. So much to see and do and places to go. I'm not sure what the computer situation will be, but I have liked putting updates on here so I will try my best to continue with them. I hope they are a little interesting. This entry feels funny. Like I was talking to myself and looked up and you were all standing there staring at me, having heard everything I said without me seeing you before. And then I just awkwardly say oh, sorry, and walk away and don't know what you do after I've left. I bet you just disperse.

Love and thoughtfulness,
Julia

Posted by JulesCV 16:03 Archived in Switzerland Comments (1)

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