“What is the feeling when you’re driving away from people, and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? -it’s the too huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” — Jack Kerouac
Everyone packing, the air is tense and pregnant with the familiar smell of anxiety, anxiety of the unknown. Back in March of 2012, the fear was the same, we were all nervous about the unknown about what the program had in store for each individual. What it would do to our personalities, to our characters, what changes would unfold in our lives and would the paths we chose for ourselves remain intact? The navel gazing questions are the same in the end, but back then it was the beginning and beginnings are always sweetly scary, sugar coated; the thrill hurts so good. So much hope in the air – you can make the experience, you can choose what to do, you have control of where it will take you…
Five months later, a few goodbyes have already been said. The building is quiet, people are packing, small intimate gathers are happening in individual apartments. We ask each other the questions we were too shy to ask before, we learn more about our pasts, we discover that we do in fact have more in common than just a shared religion. We mention visiting one another in the coming months – Paris, Australia, New York, Florida – maybe some of us actually will get on a plane, most of us will get wrapped up in the real word and not be able to find the time to participate in a true email exchange. We will definitely like each other’s photos on Facebook.
A handful of us decided to stay in this country, to see what the next adventure will bring. I for one am not ready to end it, I feel like it has just begun… but that anxiety is no longer the same and I miss that early bird, motivated feeling: “I won’t let this experience change me too much, I won’t let it stray me off my path, but I will use it to enrich everything.” As usual, things never go the way you expect, but it’s never bad, it just means you always have to pack your sneakers, your glasses, and an extra pair of underwear in your backpack, just in case… you never know where the wave will take you…
Group dynamics are so special in the end. Everyone appreciates what they experienced together and the image painted in our little nostalgic minds is that of water-colored lillies, rainbows, unicorns, and other things that go bump in the night… all smiles, all heart, 100% pure love. Goodbye Goggles will permanently ingrain this beautiful landscape image in our memories forever, we remember the good, conveniently forgetting the discomfort.
“Can it be that it was all so simple then. Or has time rewritten every line?”
— Barbara Streisand, “The Way We Were”
I didn’t come out of this experience a Zionist, nor did I completely change my path (when you have no path to begin with, how can it be a change?) But I did get to enjoy that brief irresponsible bliss of being a tourist, of letting go of some of my neuroses, of going with that ever-so-frustrating (now) Israeli flow to life. I learned a lot too, about the history, the conflict and to trust that initial gut instinct as truth. I’m not a Zionist, but I support the existence of the state of Israel. I don’t believe immigrating to Israel truly means one will ascend up to a higher spiritual level, but I might do it anyways. I believe that truth is our personal perception of the world, no matter how different it is from everyone else’s misty water-colored memory. I’m getting closer to actually believing this perception instead of trying to alter it with every bodily and mental humanly effort in my being. I don’t do as much yoga, I eat more gluten than I should, I still get irritated if my bed is not made, but like any experience (group or personal), there is an undeniable shift – internally and maybe even a game-changing, physical, fatal one too.
“To be a tourist is to escape accountability. Errors and failings don’t cling to you the way they do back home. You’re able to drift across continents and languages, suspending the operation of sound thought. Tourism is the march of stupidity. You’re expected to be stupid. The entire mechanism of the host country is geared to travelers acting stupidly. You walk around dazed, squinting into fold-out maps. You don’t know how to talk to people, how to get anywhere, what the money means, what time it is, what to eat or how to eat it. Being stupid is the pattern, the level and the norm. You can exist on this level for weeks and months without reprimand or dire consequence. Together with thousands, you are granted immunities and broad freedoms. You are an army of fools, wearing bright polyesters, riding camels, taking pictures of each other, haggard, dysenteric, thirsty. There is nothing to think about but the next shapeless event.”
— Don Delillo, The Names