My view from Terrace Hostel
I spend the afternoon wandering. Though I leave without writing down the address of the hostel or grabbing a map, the town is small and I wander freely and safely for a couple hours before easily finding my way back.
A central street which seems to separate the market and bus terminal from the rest of town.
I stopped in a little restaurant on a side street. There were a couple tuk-tuk drivers, but no other gringos. This meal of chicken and rice cost 13Q–less than two dollars and much less than food near the hostel.
Back at Terrace Hostel the volcano smokes as travelers conglomerate for talk and drinks.
I sit in the wrong seat on the plane. I’m looking at my phone as I follow the slow progress of my fellow passengers down the aisle, and I sit in E12 instead of E13. When Mr. E12 comes he smiles and tells me to stay put. That’s how my journey to Guatemala begins.
On my left is a Hispanic woman, who I think is five years older than me, but turns out to have kids practically my age. She is slim and wears heels, a dark dress and an intricate sweater with purples and reds—I noticed her on the line to board and wondered who she dressed to meet in Guatemala City. The guy on my right wears an oversized baseball hat and light jeans. He smiles at me and I’m correct when I guess he’s a college kid. He studies business at a school in Los Angeles, where he’s always lived.
She’s going to Guatemala because her grandmother has died. She’ll spend three days with her family in Guatemala City. He’s going—in fact he’s taken a semester off school just to go—because he wants to spend six weeks partying with his similarly aged cousins. He tells me he works for an organic coffee company, and before that he worked at a paint company with his dad, but now his dad’s gone—dead.
Me? To learn and see.
So on the plane, with chatter and a nap, I transition from my uncertainty about leaving the States to excitement for what’s to come.
When I walk out of the terminal, a warm breeze literally washes over me. I’d pictured a chaotic airport scene, something like Cairo with endless men haggling, offering taxi rides, etc. Instead, there’s a small semicircle of people gathered behind the gate, in the sun. A friendly man offers a shuttle to Antigua for $10—I say ‘si’ and wait around a few minutes for him to find other passengers.
A guy in his early thirties whose girlfriend’s working with a hospital mission in Antigua (Don), and an expatriate who builds solar stoves are my companions in the shuttle(Gwen). I ask Gwen a lot of questions:
He’s lived in the same community in Northern Guatemala for 8 years, but only began the solar stoves within the last. It started with his home in California, where he still has a house but only lives a couple months a year. Last year a man in his community approached him, saying he’d heard Gwen knew about solar energy. He asked Gwen to teach him what he knew. Gwen hit his computer, only knowing the basics as a consumer, but soon he was attempting a solar stove as they’re created in Africa with cardboard boxes and foil. ‘But people wanted something more durable here,’ he explained. So working with the curious man, he created a model using a large stainless steel pot. Though the costs are higher, the model is durable. He’s only created a few and given them as gifts—‘No one funds me,’ he responded to my question. He hopes to create a business out of it, but it’s difficult because the people in the community don’t have the money for stainless-steal pots. The other guy, Don, said he had some friends who worked with non-profits who might be interested in working with him.
I ask him more questions about his life. About living in a community with no other gringos. There was another a few years ago, he says. He tells a horror story of a female teacher who was brutally raped and beaten in his community a number of years ago. “It wasn’t by locals and it wasn’t gang violence.’ When I ask more he talks about the normalization of violence and oppression in Guatemalan society, not to justify the violence but to understand. It reminds me how I think about kids who act out on the South Side of Chicago.
Thus when we arrive in Antigua, I am both inspired and wary. Eager to learn more on both accounts.
There was no denying my foot was not the right size or color. I propped it up on my desk to get a better look. Yup…not looking too hot. Apparently a good night’s sleep doesn’t cure everything. As a pretty active child and a ice skater I had my fair share of sprained ankles and other relatively minor injuries; this no doubt seemed slightly concerning.
“A hospital! Really? Can’t we just stop by a pharmacy or something, get some bandages?”
My coworkers suggestion alarmed me. I pictured the U.S. emergency rooms that seem so familiar in my mind, though…have I ever even been? Lots of sick people, and hassle and….it’s only my foot! I just need a compression bandage!
Nevertheless, a few minutes later found me in Spencer’s, a manager and do-it-all-guy within FEU’s international office. (My helpful coworker had to teach class). There was no talking him out of it–to the hospital he drove.
About 10 minutes later we pulled up at a small, clean hospital. While almost all the chairs were already taken by waiting patients, the atmosphere was calm and it took only a couple minutes to provide the necessary information(date of birth, alien registration card, medical concern) and join the queue.
The next hour passed rather quickly as Spencer and I discussed topics ranging from fashion (his particular area of passion and expertise) to the pending elections in our respective countries. (He is fully Korean but studied in the States and has impeccable English). Finally an assistant called my name and I hobbled into a doctor’s office, Spencer following.
“Sit down,” said the doctor in English, after I awkwardly stood for a moment too long. He was seated at a desk behind large computer screens. I sat down on the stool and pointed to my foot. He looked at it and addressed Spencer with a cascade of Korean. He poked different points–feels fine there, yes that hurts. His next cascade of Korean was an order for an x-ray.
I left his office and waited about 15 minutes for an x-ray. After the x-ray, taken by a young competent guy who knew quite a few English phrases (‘foot like this’, ‘sit that way’) and a few more minutes of waiting, the doc welcomed Spencer and me back into his office.
He stared at the x-ray. Felt my foot some more, and indecipherable Korean once again poured forth. Spencer managed to summarize:”you broke your foot. you’ll need a cast.”
“what!? no?! ME? Impossible…but I walked home last night. And I’ve managed OK this morning…it’s just swollen.
The doctor, showed me the images and wrote “avulsion fracture” on a piece of paper. He instructed me to look it up on my phone. Ahh. Google reveals an avulsion fracture does not mean my bone snapped in two, just a piece separated. I can live with that. The doctor says a soft cast. Only three weeks. Ok. Possible. Doc says to come back for check-up in a week.
Spencer and I leave the office. Another younger man wraps my foot and gives me crutches.
Using my new crutches I awkwardly make my way to the front desk, where I pay. Around $40, once my insurance is applied. I’m not sure what this would cost in the States, but I tend to think that’s pretty great, considering I had X-rays and all.
When I go back for a check-up the next week it only costs around $3.00USD. The doctor remembers me and scolds me for walking around on the foot. (‘But it doesn’t even hurt!’ I protest. )
Conclusion: Though injuring one’s foot is a frustrating inconvenience (all I want to do is hike and play and go be in Seoul)-it was an interesting experience to see this small part of the Korean health care system and I feel lucky to have access to such competent, affordable care.
The University; home for now
The town of Gamgok-endless restaurants, uneven streets, people always out (except in the morning-the first morning I woke up here, I walked into town around 7a.m., the streets were practically deserted.)
Peppers are a big crop around here, and people aren’t shy about showing it. There are peppers on the street signs & often in the middle of street. This is a rather large batch, but it’s not uncommon to see a blanket with about 1/8 as much just chilling in the middle of the sidewalk-pedestrians be ware!
A crop of rice, during the typhoon, which occurred the same time as Hurricane Isaac in the States.
The reason why I’m here-the students. Ironically, mostly boys, just like my last venture.
A trip to a river outside Seoul, to kayak with my new coworkers.
I’m on a plane to South Korea. The TV in front of me, the one in front of the Korean girl next to me, the two that project to my left and right (and every other not occupied with a movie or other program a passenger selected) show a cartoonish image of the world we’re flying over. Right now we’re over the Arctic Ocean What does that image, our passage above have to do with what’s below? (Ok maybe not the arctic, but the land passed and coming up…)
Up here, in our compact, protected bubble of momentum, it is easy to not even consider all the rushing earth beneath (at the speed of 505mpr).
People going to work…Dressing ..Victimized…Committing violence..Loving..Getting married…Breaking up…Dying…Being born…Rape. (Making ridiculous & offensive statements about rape)….Cooking. Eating…Making choices they’ll regret or cherish….Studying…Quitting… Succeeding…failing…Sacrificing…Talking. In so many languages.About anything. Everything….Getting diagnosed with cancer…Recovering…Celebrating birthdays (happy birthday darling Cady). And on and on……….
And all concealed by this accelerating bubble and the darkening sky where we have our sterile meals, laws indicated by signs and announcements in Korea and English, ambassadors keeping order and providing for basic needs-“More water, miss?”
Flying above might give one a sense of smallness below, but then because the plane will land, we will get out, I zoom in. The reality of the unimaginable complexity of each of those entities below, of the systems of laws and nations, or cultures and maybe just a few universal desires or dreams.. The intertwining, the overlapping, the lack of single reality….? And then just knowing one thing. Having one thing that is concrete seems enough, in a way. Maybe just for a minute. Or a year.
Since my last entry, I graduated from Northeastern University and spent two years teaching on the South side of Chicago as a Teach for America corp member. I made the choice not to display those experiences, not due to lack of stories, but out of respect for the privacy of my students. Though I move on, those boys (I taught at an all male school) remain strong in my heart and mind. In part, I am on this plane to seek answers to questions the last two years raised for me. I want to see other education systems. I want perspective and experience.
So South Korea calls. I will live outside Seoul and teach at a university. Two writing classes and a listening class. I don’t know much about my students yet, let alone the area (supposedly a somewhat rural college town) my colleagues, the culture or really anything else particularly useful.
But I will learn. And once again share some of my experiences via writing. So tune in, if you will. Tell me what you think. Give me ideas and feedback. Make the negative comments constructive and the positive honest. And of course, let me know if you’d like to come visit.
So as the title says–yes, Israel reimbursed me for around 80 percent of the cost for a replacement laptop. I got the reimbursement in late December. Since people are still asking me, I’m *finally* posting this.
Thanks to those of you who left me encouraging comments and sent emails about my laptop, traveling, writing, conflict, etc. I am sorry I did not answer many of them. I did read everything and feel enormously lucky to be privy to so many perspectives.
To all those who bombarded my blog with negative comments–to only proclaiming hate for Israelis/Palestinians/Americans/Muslims, to accusing me of leaving my bag unattended (I did not) and never backing-up (I did–but yes, I should have more often): Travel. Read. If you’re in the U.S. take advantage of our amazing diversity and meet new people. If you’re an Israeli, why don’t you visit a Palestinian area? I know I’ll be criticized for saying this and I by no means thinks it’s the rule, however most Israelis I met had never been to a Palestinian area and thought I was crazy for going to Ramallah (which is perfectly safe and 20 minutes from Jerusalem). Likewise, I was shocked by how many Palestinians do not attempt to learn Hebrew. While I understand the repulsion for many, let’s face reality. How can solutions be reached without common languages?
There is tons I do not know about the Israel, Palestinians, Muslims, Jews, etc. I’m learning and with what I learn will likely change some opinions. This is my blogs, my opinions. I’m not a politician, not a journalist, I try to research and write informed entries, however I do not always censor my views or hide my ignorance. So don’t read if you do not want to…I hope you, like me, will be inspired to learn more by this incident, (more precisely the reaction to it).I’m all for criticizing– just make it worthwhile, debatable, something we can work with.
Ok. I’m writing too much. I intended this to be a short sweet post. Actually a reading break.
Yes…post-Israel, I spent a couple last days in Egypt, a couple crazy weeks reuniting with family and friends in NY, and now I’m back Boston, finishing my *last* undergraduate semester.
I miss blogging…but simply have no time now with school work, job, etc. One of these days I plan to catch-up and get back into it =)
If you’re a MA resident go vote in the special Senate election to fill Kennedy’s seat!!
HURRY! Polls close at 8p.m.
Though the election was never expected to be close (Coakley was a sure favorite), it seems is–think discontent and mixed feelings of the health care reform. In other terms: This election matters and MA voters know it.
Though still a New Yorker when it comes to voting, the election felt more personal after this Sunday when President Obama rallied for Martha Coakley (D), on Northeastern’s campus.
NUTV filmed Obama’s entire speech and reported hopeful audience formed a line as early as 4 a.m for doors which opened at 1p.m.
I joined the line around 11a.m. At around 1:30 a police car drove by (we were on Huntington Ave. across from Temptations Cafe) and told us the space–Cabot Gym–was already filled.
Though disappointed to miss Obama, waiting on line was no bust. Seeing NU’s familiar campus fill with supporters and protesters was inspiring.
If you have commented it should show up within the next day. I’m not censoring, just busy traveling.
My goal on this trip was to explore and learn. To see things for myself.
I’m using this incident as a chance to discuss, learn and question. I hope you’ll join me….
I loved my experience, learned a lot and hope to share more positive anecdotes, as well as laptop updates, in the coming days.
Also, thanks for the invitations, however I am no longer in Israel or the Palestinian areas.
Thanks for all the interest, humor and advice regarding my laptop craziness.
First, I completely agree with Freitas’s comment. “These guys shoot every day at unarmed people, even children. Why so much surprise about a simple laptop?”
Though a visual and poignant incident that captures a lot of sentiment and fault with Israeli policies and practices, unfortunately there are many more issues to get riled over. Let’s redirect the outrage over the laptop and focus on more serious grievances?
I’m busy at work, but this just caught my eye: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/dec/09/gaza-children-palestinian-babies
That said, obviously there is interest in this incident. The Israeli security’s decision to shoot my laptop was nonsensical on multiple levels–unprovoked, unduly aggressive, a waste of government funds, etc
So to answer a FAQ:
Compensation? The manager on duty at the Israeli border gave me a form with phone numbers and an addresses of Israeli government offices in cities throughout Israel.
He promised I could go to any office the next day and they would help me get another laptop.
I was under the impression they would directly purchase from a local Apple store.
After spending most of a day calling the number with no response, and trying to locate a building Israelis I encountered didn’t know the location of, I was lucky enough to connect with a social worker at the tourism ministry. With his guidance, I was able to meet with an Israeli government employee the next day.
She passed me on to another man who took pictures of my laptop and said the process I was to go through was the same as any Israeli who had property damaged by military or “terrorist” acts.
They told me I can expect compensation (deliverable to an Israeli bank account only) in about a month. Though I asked to see the report– i.e. how much they’re planning to compensate me, so far, no news.
Let the countdown begin….??
I was sitting on the deck overlooking the Red Sea. Israeli security officers (most who looked around 18 years old) had completed around two hours of questioning and searching me. They had pressed every sock and scarf with a security device, ripped open soap and had me strip extra layers. They asked me tons of questions–where are you going? Who do you know? Do you have a boyfriend? Is he Arab, Egyptian, Palestinian? Why do you live in Egypt? Why not Israel? What do you know about the ‘conflict’ here? What do you think? They quized me on Judaism,which I know nothing about.
Then they asked me to wait. Since they had asked for friends and families phone numbers I assumed they might be calling to verify my answers to questions or confirm I really had extended family in Tel Aviv. An announcement played over the sound system, interrupting my break in the sunshine. First in Hebrew, then Arabic, then in English. It was something along the lines of, ” do not to be alarmed by gunshots because the Israeli security needs to blow up suspicious passanger luggage.”
I went inside to check on my bag. I had left it unattended, where they instructed. It was still there so I went back outside.
Moments later a man came outside and introduced himself as the manager on duty. And then, “I’m sorry but we had to blow up your laptop. “
What….all my client case notes and testimony, writing, pictures, music and applications. Years of work. NO!!!! What?? Are you insane?? What were you thinking? THAT’S ALL MY WORK!?
After much yelling, crying and frantic phone dialing (don’t be alarmed if I called you repeatedly this morning), he took me outside to see the wreckage. It turned out it hadn’t been quite blown up, but rather shot through with three bullets. We were able to extract the hard drive, seemingly unscaved. Thank goodness…
Security had never asked for my password. Was it my peeling Arabic stickers on the keyboard? Or something else during the questioning which set them off?
Toward the beginning of the search an officer began clicking through the photos on my camera. She froze on a picture of graffiti, which read “Fuck” scrawled next to the Jewish star of David. “Why do you have this picture?” She asked me rather aggressively. “Because I was disturbed by it too,” I answered. She didn’t press the subject but continued clicking…presumably looking at pictures from a photo exhibit about Israel’s January attack of Gaza.
Though I usually delete all my pictures when uploading, unluckily I had clicked save rather than delete when uploading this set and never got around to manually deleting on my camera. Whoops…
Among other suspicious item; an Arabic phrasebook, a journal entry that mentioned a Palestinian(yes, they even flipped through my journal), stamps from Syria, Qatar and the UAE, Palestinians in Palestine guidebook, and a map a friend had drawn with a main street in Jerusalem, the central bus station and my intended hostel. “Who are you meeting there?” They asked me.
Anyway I am in Jerusalem. Years of my life and my RLAP work is not destroyed. *sigh*. Insha’allah I will like Israel better tomorrow….