Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Delicate Balance in Life

This morning I was met with a great Dichotomy. Yesterday, I was met with one as well. And thinking back on my days, it seems like each is met with a blitz of awe-inspiring happiness and mind-blowing pain. The news lately has held headlines like Obama's bailout plan, peace talks between North Korea and China, new advances in stem-cell research, and the Pope trying to reach out to young believers by creating a vatican page on YouTube. But to set the scales straight, one click away were articles about the effects of phosphorus in the Israel-Gaza conflict, deadly storms in Spain killing 4 children under the age of 12, and former bishops of the Catholic church refusing to acknowledge the existence of gas chambers in the Holocaust, further bridging the gap between major world religions. Even this morning my heart was torn reading email, having received one in regards to a friends new journey in France, and another informing me of the final blow in a family friend's loosing battle with cancer. It seems like each day this paradox of rising hope and building devastation grows. I can't put my finger on whether or not I think the world is slowly crumbling from the inside, or if globalization is bandaging the wounds that ignorance created. But the one conclusion I can find seems to be the fact that this dichotomy is life. Without pain their would be no joy. Without suffering there would be no soothing. Without heartbreak there would be no love. If one moment I want to wither away in my bed, I stand up, because I know the next moment will hold something powerful enough to curb the ugliness the immobilized me in the first place. And maybe that is the lesson that needs to be learned. Even though life doesn't always appear fair, and there seems to be a war between good and evil raging around every corner, our only option is to live. We can either stay hidden in our beds, or we can wake up, make sure we put on clean underwear  and socks, and do all that is humanly possible to add another tally to the good side of the scoreboard. I don't know what the rest of the world will chose, but the bell ringing on the dryer tells me that my hope is only a warm pair of socks away.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reverse Culture Shock

I would consider myself a very strong person, but I think part of that strength is admitting weakness when it appears. Having arrived home only two weeks ago, and been on the move ever since, submitting to weakness is a lesson I've learned all to well. The world seems to be in constant flux. One second I'll catch myself dazing out, thinking of the street I used to walk to school, and the next I'll be remembering how to lock up at work. But the most bizarre part (to an ignorant youth trying to reinvent the wheel) is the fact that everything cheesy returnee instructions say are true. You romanticize the place you were. Everything that was so unbearable while abroad,  seems so glorious when you're back home. You see faces that you know are thousands of miles away, but seem to think they are walking on your campus. You return to the comfortable, the normal, the known, only to realize that what used to seem so simple, has become completely foreign. The people you know and love will support you, but after a few short comments about your experience, their attention is shot, and your once again left alone with the memories in your head, and the pictures on your hard drive. I've even caught myself day-dreaming about my flight home, and how good it felt to see the mountains again, and know my family would be at the airport waiting for me. But what gets me through the day is seeing the change in my life that marks study abroad's lasting effects. It's feeling the difference when I wake up in the morning. It's experiencing the new way of thought while making conversation. It's watching the knowledge I've gained from the other side of the world effect my daily life back home. Its seeing all these things working as one that makes me not only embrace the challenge of returning home, but be thankful to be culture shocked in my own country. Its knowing that when I lay my head down in Boulder, Colorado, that when I was doing the same thing in Rabat, Morocco, I was experiencing something so much greater then myself.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Years in Naples

After spending Thanksgiving in Marrakech, Christmas Eve in Paris, and Christmas day in Rome, News Years Eve found me in the city of Naples with my lady friend Caroline. Though the Romans describe it as the armpit of Italy, and its streets somewhat resemble a larger-scale Moroccan Medina (knock purse salesmen, arguing and motorcycles on sidewalks), all the elements come together to create a bizarre equilibrium between chaos and charm. Naples is also conveniently located, so we spent the day ogling the 2000-year-old ash-preserved ruins of Pompeii, and haggling with a 4’8 grandma like merchant who promised us good prices because we looked Italian. ( How much youa give me? Ten Euro, ten euro cuz I uh like you! You look Italeeean.) Though Naples is pretty hectic during the day, what I didn’t know is that the night of New Years Eve it becomes a war zone. While getting ready and profiting from the wireless Internet of the Mediterraneo Marriot (thanks Mrs. Clark!) I saw a funny article about the women of Naples refusing to have sex on New Years unless the men stopped using illegal fireworks. It seems like this was done in vain, because as we left our hotel around 9 pm, the streets were empty besides the sounds of explosions. I felt like I was heading the front line. Store alarms were sounding, smoke filled the air, and every few steps a bomb would explode and the night sky would be engulfed by fire. And to make matters worse, along with running from trench to trench to dodge fire, an empty street meant empty stomachs for Caroline and I. Napolitano people apparently spend a typical New Years blowing their city up, while eating home made meals. The few open restaurants had 60 Euro set menus and a two hour-long wait. Even the Golden Arches failed to serve us. But as we know, only the strong survive, and after evading mortars for a few more blocks, we found a corner “snack bar” with a thirty euro turf menu of the day, and a two hour wait. The bar maid kept the crowd calm by keeping everyone’s champagne flute full, and as the minutes passed, everyone became a bit merrier. Caroline and I were seated after all those with pre-made reservations went, and after our five-course meal, we found ourselves the only customers still in the restaurant at 11:55 pm. This didn’t ruin the mood, and our very merry bar maid still ran the show, so we spent our last second of 2008 sipping free champagne, then welcomed in the New year by passionately embracing and tossing our flutes into the air. Though the streets were a war zone before the ball dropped, after ringing in the New Year, fireworks were even more abundant. Our fifteen-minute walk back to the hotel turned into a 30 minute extravaganza dodging mortars, bottle rockets, and whatever else the Italians felt they should toss of their balconies, including old TVs. But we did make it back to our hotel, and when we arrived, we still had time to watch Naples blow itself up from our roof.

Here are some pictures and videos to give you hint of what it was like

Look a twofer!- A year in Review
I know I’m a few days late, but I think I would have been wasting my time if I was writing blogs in Rome instead of seeing the sites and spending time with my girlfriend. But with each New Year, one needs to look back on what they achieved. In the past twelve months a lot has happened in my life. I found love. I’ve learned a new language (or at least enough to get around Morocco). I lost my grandma. I viewed the Atlantic from two different continents. I swam in the Med in three countries. I traveled to the Islamic world. I saw Vegas as a legal adult. I took too big of a course load followed by a joke semester. I stepped foot on three different continents. I visited California, Nebraska, and South Caroline all in one summer. I began writing again. I began running again. I lived by an ocean. I saw Ramadan as well as the Eid. I learned about a religion that has a negative stigma I my country. I questioned my own faith and redefined not only my perspective on God and Religion but my own personal beliefs as well. I had falling outs and new beginnings. I had highs and I had lows. I felt joy to the point of ecstasy, and sorrow to the point of agony. But most of all I lived. I experienced. I learned. Though some things were good and some things were not so good, what was different about this year was the fact that I took every experience for what it was, an experience. Be it glorious or heart wrenching, no day was lived in vain. And for this, 2008 will be a year I never will forget. Happy New Year to all, and may life guide you in your path.