Lessons Learned on a Bus

Last week, I had my first vacation from the ulpan: five whole days to myself without studying or working.

It was the weirdest thing. The first day, I was sitting outside the ulpan office visiting with some friends at a picnic table in the sunshine, but I had the uneasy feeling that I ought to have been doing something else. It was a little nagging feeling that told me I must have an appointment somewhere, that I should be studying, that I should be in class — maybe the bell rang and I missed it! — or maybe they came to pick us up from work and I missed the ride…. Oh, no!

And then I stopped myself.

“You are on vacation,” I told myself.

“Being on vacation feels weird,” Me told I.

Sigh. “I know….” I agreed, “Let’s make the best of it, shall we?”  

And make the best of it we did.

On Monday 14, we traveled by bus to Karmiel to spend the Pesach Seder with our friends from Mexico who made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago. Oh, what an adventure that was. As a prelude to this anecdote, I wish to inform you that I am beginning to understand the phrase that someone says when asked if he is fluent in a language:

“I know just enough of X language to get me into trouble.”

So, here I am, three months into the ulpan, amazed that, as of 2 weeks ago, I can suddenly understand more and more of people’s conversations, when off my sister and I go to Karmiel to go a-visitng. I employed the help of the ladies in the office in order to determine which bus line would take us to Karmiel and at what time they passed our stop. To make sure I got it right, I even asked a friend from work to confirm the information. Armed with this knowledge and excited to be making our first overnight trip away from our little ulpan home, we set off. Sitting at the bus stop, I was overhearing a conversation between two men, one of which needed to get to Tzfat (a town near Karmiel) and was wondering what time the right bus would pass. So, Rebekah — ever the one to pipe up and say something — informs the native Israeli man which bus line he should take to Tzfat and at what time the bus passes. He in turn replies that he is most familiar with the buses since he travels to Tzfat very often, thank you very much.

This conversation, by the way, took place in most rudimentary Hebrew on my part and very speedy Hebrew on his part. Therefore, let us agree that from now on that what I am relating here is what I think he said and that, most likely, I was not understanding everything.

He in turn asked me to where we were traveling. Upon discovering that we were all traveling in the same general direction, he pointedly told me that there were no buses that ran directly to Karmiel from that stop. He took it upon himself to explain to me how to arrive to Karmiel by taking a certain bus, getting off at a certain junction, and catching another bus.

Ani esbir lach — I will explain to you. Bo’i!– Come!” he said, as the bus he was taking approached. “Bo’i!”

And what did Rebekah do? In the rush and pressure of the bus arriving and the man’s urging, she cast away all of the researching and confirmed information she had and obediently followed him.

I know, I know. You can say it: What the heck is wrong with you, child?

I would like, here, to thank my sister for being ever supportive of me and backing me up in everything I do, no matter how stupid I am. Never does she blindly follow me, but she is always there. She is more like a loving mother who looks on as her child tries something new while at the same time is on the look out for any truly potential danger, and only then does she interfere. Jabniah, you are the best. I love you.

I also realize that if I had not understood the general idea of what they were saying, I would never had got us into this mess.

Once settled into our seats on the bus, I realized the stupidly impulsive thing I had just done, and began to have misgivings about the whole arrangement. The growing apprehension in my chest caused me to conquer my reluctance to ask the man next to me (again, in Hebrew) if this bus arrived in Karmiel.

No, it did not.

The dismay and consternation must have been evident on my face as I explained to my fellow passenger — a middle-aged man who was going home for Pesach  — where I need to get to, what the man at the bus stop had told me, and how I had impulsively followed him onto the bus.

Al tidagi — don’t worry” he reassured me, as he pulled out his phone and began to search for the next junction where we could get off and take the correct bus to Karmiel (thank God for 3G internet!). As he searched, I sat and mentally kicked myself for having been so stupid, until I realized that doing so would get me nowhere. My Hebrew teacher Tzipi always tells us not to be afraid to make mistakes because “Kacha lomdim” — this is the way we learn.

“Kacha lomdim, Rebekah” Me told I.

By the end of the day, lamadeti (I learned) the following:

  • Stick to the plan. I had good information from reliable sources, but instead I followed the unfounded advice of a stranger who I thought I could understand.
  • Don’t let the pressure of a situation get to you. This helps in sticking to the plan. I really have a problem with getting caught up in the pressure and flurry of a situation and going with whatever comes to me first, instead of taking deliberate, thoughtful steps.
  • Keep calm and don’t stress. Just because you get on the wrong bus doesn’t mean its the end of the world. Instead of kicking yourself for making a mistake, get your head on straight, find out how to fix the situation, and fix it.

Sitting safely and contently in our friends home that evening after a delicious Pesach dinner, I realized that if I had not done what I did, I would have never learned this lesson, nor would I have found a new friend in Asaf, my fellow passenger who kindly helped a little Mexican girl who knew just enough Hebrew to get her into trouble.

 

Stay tuned for more “Pesach Vacation Adventures.”

 

 

 

 

My friend and fellow blogger recently sent me an email, inquiring about my well-being and the goings-on in my life in Israel. The following is an excerpt of my answer to her:

…First off I would like to tell you that I now more fully sympathize with your culture shock experience [In reference to her trip to and culture shock in Mexico while visiting yours truly] Two weeks ago (after 2 months of being here) my little brain finally realized I am actually in a different country. I walked around in the most stupefied daze for a whole week; like that feeling you get when you stay up way too late the night before, and your brain feels lighter than air. Everything seemed unreal and I felt slightly confused. This question involuntarily resounded in my head: “How the heck did I get here? What the heck am I doing here? “ Several times at work, my brain unconsciously conjured up the thought: “Maybe today everyone will speak in English or Spanish and not Hebrew. Then, we can all laugh and visit together because the big joke will be over.” But alas! This is not to be so. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when one of my coworker’s son started babbling at me in baby Hebrew: it was then I knew this was no joke. So, I talked to my Brazilian friend about how I felt, how pressured I was because I didn’t understand the language, pressured because I couldn’t speak Hebrew, pressured because we only have 3 months left of ulpan, frustrated because I can’t communicate with my coworkers and I felt really awkward. The fish we were sorting at the moment, I bathed in a few tears. After work, I spent a large part of the afternoon in the sunshine at a picnic table with another friend, who also encouraged me very much as, together, we analyzed the severity of the challenge that we voluntarily put ourselves into…

I don’t know what it is about talking things over with a sympathetic friend that makes everything much better and brings things into perspective.

I have come to understand by experience that every person has the need to express their thoughts, feelings, and outlook on life. But not just express them for the mere sake of saying them: we have the need to be understood by someone. The ache caused by so many pent-up thoughts and things left unsaid is incredible. Never had I realized how much I actually had to say — how much I wanted to say! –until I could not say it. I realize, now, that I took for granted the blessedness of simply opening my mouth and expressing whatever I wanted.

After three months of alternating between excruciating frustration caused by being unable to express myself and utter delight derived from knowing that someone understood me when I painstakingly stuttered where I worked and how much I loved my job, I think I may be becoming a more compassionate and person. Now, when I run into that one fellow ulpanist who only speaks Ukrainian and very basic English, I stop and take time to listen and truly try to understand what he is trying to say. I know that he — like I — needs to be understood, not just heard.

Working with the Boys

The fish business here on the kibbutz is composed of two main parts: the Madan and the Shetach (pronounce the ch as a hard h). As I mentioned in a previous post, the Madan is in charge of preparing, selecting, packing, and sending the ornamental fish all over the world (Yes! In cardboard boxes). The Shetach is in charge of breeding and growing the edible fish. The guys that work in the Shetach are also in charge of hauling the ornamental fish into the Bet-Ariza (packing house) for us to sort, inject, etc. With a tractor, they pull big ‘ole tanks on trailers filled with fish from the ponds that surround the kibbutz on its west and north side.
Usually, Karlie and I work inside the packing house, while Igal is sometimes taken to work with the Shetach boys out in the fields (just ‘cuz he’s a boy, and I think only guys are working in the Shetach anyway). So imagine my surprise when Ornit, one of the ladies in charge at the packing house, came up to me today and said, “Rebekah,” in that wonderful Israeli accent that I love to hear my name said in, “do you want to go to the fields today?”
Hardly had the last word left her mouth when I had already set down the syringe and the fish I was not quite done injecting and wiped my hands on my jeans.
“Yes.”
“Only if you want to. You don’t have to,” she assured me.
“Of course I want to.” Are you kidding me? I was thinking, Pass up the first chance I’ve gotten to work out in the ponds.
“OK, then. Go with him.”
So, I followed him (I must admit I never asked him his name) and Igal out to the long shed where the waterproof suits are kept: time to suit up. To say that the suit given to me to wear fit me big is an understatement. The boots were 3 or 4 sizes too big, so much so that I could have pushed my foot forward and still had room to put my fist in the boot along with my foot; but, of course, this was impossible, since the boots and the suit are all one piece. Whoever the suit belongs to must be one tall guy ‘cuz all of the material just bunched up around my middle and I had to hike up the suit like a skirt before I started walking. It was like wearing super over-sized overalls. Then, the straps that go over the shoulders to hold up the suit kinda just stuck up in the air or fell over my shoulders. Yeah…. I must have looked glamorous.
So, we jumped into the pick-up and drove out to the designated pond for my first fish round-up. Now, I have rounded up cattle, and I have rounded up sheep and goats, but never fish. Turns out the principle is the same. We took a big net and stretched it out in such a way that it would corner the fish in one end of the pond. Then we slowly gathered the net, catching all of the fish. I helped to pull the net in slowly to close the trap on the unsuspecting fish. Once we had the fish compressed into the smallest possible space in the net, we took them out of the net and put them into the tank on the trailer using a very interesting contraption. This contraption consisted of a small bucket on wheels that was set on a track reaching from the top of the big tank on the trailer down to the ground. Mr. Man-in-charge would fill a bucket I held for him with fish and give it to Igal, who would then empty the fish into the bucket on wheels. Once the little tank on wheels was full enough, another guy would start up a motor that wound up a rope, thus pulling the little tank on wheels up the track. Once it reached the top, it would dump the fish into the big tank. It was cool to watch.
Don’t ask me why I am fascinated by contraptions such as these. I just am.
Once we had emptied the net, it turned out that there was not enough fish. Therefore, we had to set up our net trap again. I was sent to one end of the pond to scare the fish toward the corner we were working in. In some places the water would come up to my middle, and the suit would get pressed so hard against my legs and hips that it felt like I was wearing one of those one-piece exercise suits. Talk about having a difficult time walking; I worked up quite an appetite wading through all that water. The previous procedure was repeated once again, resulting in 90 kilos of Koi fish.
Riding in the pick-up — the windows down, the sun’s warmth pouring in, music playing from the radio — I relaxed in the backseat enjoying the satisfactory tiredness that comes from doing physical labor and watched the ponds go past the window as we rattled down the dirt road back to the packing house.  A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth ‘cuz I today I got to work outside with the boys.
 

An Amazing Place to Be In

 

It is hard to believe that we have already been is Israel for a month now: how time does quickly go by! It is surreal to sit down and reflect on the fact that we are actually in this country, and that the year and a half of planning is now no longer a plan but a reality. Currently, we are living on a kibbutz (a communal society) called Maagan Michael, which is located on the Mediterranian coast just south of Haifa, boasting a population of about 1,800. It is one of the largest and wealthiest kibbutzim in the country. The majority of the kibbutz’s land is dedicated to fish ponds, in which ornamental Koi fish and edible fish are raised. The kibbutz also owns and operates other businesses such as a multi-million dollar plastics factory and a diary farm. Mostly, only members of the kibbutz work in the kibbtz’s  businesses; however, there are also many people working here that are from other cities in Israel. Here on the kibbutz, even the children are expected to do their part for the kibbutz. Since 7th grade, they work several hours, once a week, in any one of the kibbutz jobs.  As they get older, they work more hours and more days a week. The children of the kibbutz are amazing to me: from a very young age, they become independent and self-sufficient. For instance, I have observed a large group of 5-6 year olds come into the community dinning room with their teachers, form an orderly line to get their food, carry their own plate and cup on a tray to the table, sit down, eat, and finally take their tray to the dishwashing area where they place the cups, silverware, plates, and trays in their designated containers. There is, of course, a happy, playful, childness to them, but it is lacking in the unrestraint and immaturity I have seen in groups of children that age back home. The kibbutz has its own schools beginning from pre-K and going through high school. Every school yard has an underground bomb shelter; also, every house has a “bunker”: a room built of steel-reinforced walls, roof, and door. This room will often function as one of the bedrooms or a small storage room; therefore, it looks like anyother room in the house, but the door will be thicker and heavier that the other doors.

 

The kibbutz is incredibly self-sufficient! It has a small store where you can buy anything from shampoo to ice cream, to cleaning supplies, snacks, dishes, and school supplies; a small market offering fresh produce, meat, diary products, and canned goods; a clinic, dentist office, schools, gym, soccer field, ballet classes, post office, pub, sporting goods store, laundry service, coffee shop, and small auditorium/movie theater. In addition, it has a large dinning room that prepares industrial amounts of food for those living on the kibbutz. However, most people prepare their own meals and eat at home. For Jabniah and I, the dining room (called the Heder Ohel) is our source of meals.

 

 

When we are not in our room or the Heder Ohel, Jabniah and I will be either in Hebrew classes or work. Everyday, from Sunday – Thursday (this is the work week in Israel), we work and study. Every week our schedule alternates in the following manner: one week classes are held in the morning from 7 – 11:30 a.m., and the next week they are held in the afternoon from 1 – 5 p.m. The week we have class in the morning, we work in the afternoon, and vice versa. Jabniah is in a different class than I am; therefore, when I am studying in the morning, she is working (and vice versa). So, how is our Hebrew level coming? We can say basic sentences and ask basic questions. Listening to someone’s conversations in Hebrew, we can pick up words here and there. The majority of the people that live here speak English to some degree or another, but we try to speak using what we know in Hebrew and say the rest in English. The place we get to practice most is at work. Jabniah works in the Heder Ohel’s kitchen. She works in the salad area chopping up all kinds of vegetables for salads (and Israelis eat LOTS of salads). In the morning, she begins work at 7 a.m., and in the afternoon shift, she beginns at 12:30 p.m. She is enjoying her job very much and works hard at practicing her Hebrew. I work in the Madan, a company dedicated to raising, preparing, packing and selling ornametal Koi fish and goldfish. I begin work at 6 a.m. On morning shifts, and at 11:45 a.m. On afternoon shifts. I also enjoy my job and the people I work with very much.

 

This month we were taken on a field trip to learn about the history of this kibbutz. When the young founders of Maagan Michael began to develop the kibbutz, they were asked by the Israeli resistance to take on a very secret and dangerous mission. This was in 1945. Israel was not a state. There was not supposed to be a resistance group. The mission: build a clandestine bullet factory under the nose of the British Mandate and manufacture bullets for the resistance. The founders, a group of 30 young men and women not over the age of 21, accepted the mission, built and underground factory under the kibbutz’s laundry house, and for three years secretly manufactured bullets for the Israeli resistance forces – bullets that won Israel’s war for independence. And do you want to know what the craziest thing is? Judith Ayalon is one of those amazing young women who agreed to take on the mission and made thousands of bullets. Three times last week, I sat across the table from her during lunch and listened to her talk with her friends. She is 85 and lives contently and peacefully on this kibbutz, in this land that by her efforts and hard work (and that of many others just like her) is now the Jewish homeland. Considering her life, what she did, how she is enjoying the results of her decision to be part of the establishment of Israel, both Jabniah and I feel our hearts give out a longing sigh to do something like she did.

 

In the time that we have been in Israel, we have seen history come alive, seen the landscapes that  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the prophets must have seen, met so many people from so many different countries, and have had our minds presented with new prespectives on life. We have so many things to learn and so many things to put in practice. We are very content and sastisfied. Thank you so much for your prayers and your thoughts toward us. God knows why He has brought is here, and we say to Him “May your will be done in our lives.” So be it.

 

The Madaan

I have the best job in the whole kibbutz! I work with in the Madaan, a packing house where Koi and goldfish are prepared for packaging, packaged, and finally shipped to the customer.

“How the heck do fish get packged?” you might ask. Ah, my friend, I will tell you.

First some background: I work with my fellow ulpanists Karlie and Igal. (An ulpanist is someone who studies Hebrew on a special program called an ulpan) Karlie is from New York state and Igal is from Andorra. What language do we speak in? English, of course. If there was a rule that we could only speak in Hebrew to each other at this point, I fear there would exist a severe state of silence. Igal and I will speak in Spanish to each other if Karlie is not present; he makes fun of my Mexican idioms and I laughingly imitate his Spainardly Spanish.

Our work schedule alternates every week: one week we will work in the morning from 6 am — 11:45 am, and the next week we work from 12 pm — 3:30 pm. Someone from work comes to pick us up from the ulpan office in the Maadan van, a rusty, white, 70s-looking van with the traces of the Maadan logo on it. I am proud to say that I can recognize the sound of its motor before I see the van almost every time they come for us. (Yeah, I know, who cares, right?)

When I  am not working, I am in class (but that is another story).

This week, I worked mornings.

At 5 am, I wake up to “Breathe Easy” by Matisyahu and then piddle around a bit on my iPod (because I  have discovered that the light from the screen helps me wake up). How can I convey to you the eagerness I feel to get to work? I dress as quickly and quietly as I can (don’t want to wake my rommies), check the time, dash my toothbrush across my teeth, see what time it is, throw my hair into a ponytail, snatch my phone and room key, jerk on my oversized sweater, and sneak a look at the time before I grab my Bible. In order to not disturb my roommates, I sit in the bathroom with the light on to read my Proverb for the day. Sitting on the toilet (with the lid down, of course!), I try hard to make myself focus on the Wisdom before me without looking at the clock every two minutes. Then, finally! It is 5:40! I put my Bible away, check my pockets to make sure I have my key, and leave the room, locking the door behind me. Hurrying down the stairs, I then run the 100 meters to the ulpan office, waving and smiling to the coming sun on my right. Sitting on the picnic table in front of the ulpan office, I thank God for the new day and watch the dawn wash away into daylight. Soon, I am joined by Karlie and Igal, and together we wait to watch four Philippine men ride by on their bikes on their way to work. These men make us think they belong to the KKK because they wear white rubber boots, hoods and neck warmers pulled up to their eyes, and they glide past on their bikes in creepy silence.

Um… yeah. Or maybe it’s just too early for us.

Once at work, the first thing we do is take a coffee break. Everyone sits in the cafeteria and sips coffee and stares off into space or looks through Facebook on their phone. At 6:20 or so, work begins. We never do the same thing in the same order everyday. One day, Karlie and I might start off doing the morning routine, which consists of cleaning the filters of one hundred 9-meter long fish tanks and pulling dead fish out of the same. Karlie usually cleans the filters and I check for mortalities. Some days we will inject fish with antibiotics, sort goldfish according to size, wash the equipment, drain and clean the long outdoor pools, or make the cardboard boxes that the fish are shipped in. And sometimes we do all of the above.

Yes. Fish are shipped in cardboard boxes. For example, an order comes in for, say, 250 4-5 Koi A fish. (Check out my jargon, there, y’all!) Translation: 250 of the highest-quality Koi fish ranging in size from 4-5 inches. We inject the fish with antibiotic to make sure they will be healthy, and we cull out any fish that has sores on it or that is deformed. Then we count out the fish and put them in a container. The fish are then placed in a cardboard box that is doubly-lined with nylon bags. Into the first bag go the fish with water. A package of some substance designed to absorb CO2 is stuck to the inside of the bag and all of the air is sucked out of the bag. The bag is then filled with pure oxygen, and the bag twisted closed and secured with a rubber band. Finally, the second bag is also twisted and tied closed and the box is taped closed. And, viola!, the fish are ready for flight. Packed like this, the fish can live for up to 30 hours in the box. Amazing, no?

I love going to work….

The general atmosphere is very cheerful. My coworkers are friendly and hardworking, focused and yet very playful. It is such a happy place 🙂

 

 

 

 

I’m Still Here…

I know, I have abandoned you.

It is hard to write and yet be experiencing things at the same time, you know?

Alright, then. We are settled into our room at the kibbutz. There are three cots, a closet, a bathroom, a tiny kitchen, and a mini fridge. It is pretty comfortable. We have a roommate who is from Montreal , Canada. We have met so many people from so many places. South Africa, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Italy, Canada, the US, Sweden, Australia– to name a few. Everyone communicates in English. However the Latinos tend to gather together and speak in the many different accents of Spanish. My sister Jabniah and I can do either group. It is quite interesting.

We have had our placement test to figure out what level of Hebrew we have. Once they evaluate that, we will be told what “grade” we are in. They will tell us tomorrow. Classes will begin on Sunday, I think.

Tomorrow they will also tell us what job we get to work in. There are many jobs to choose from: fish farm, diary cow stable, horse stable, avocado orchard, child care, caring for the elderly, dining room, working in the coffee shop or convenience store. Since we were asked to write down our top two preferences, I chose fish farm and avocado orchard. However, we don’t necessarily work were we choose. They give the jobs to people with previous experience and they also take into account the needs of the kibbutz. So, we shall see what I get.

Today, we spent all day at the beach, coming back only for lunch and dinner. It is beautiful at the beach! Fine sand, blue waves, and an easy breeze made the perfect backdrop for reading, strolling, photographing, and napping. I even made a sandcastle! I haven’t ever made one.

Remind me, now, to tell you all about how my meals work out, yeah? Right now, I am heading down to the beach for the fourth time today to a bonfire.

Sitting at the Gate

Today, I write to you from the airport in Houston, TX.

Oh yeah, we are on our way!

A week of careful packing, farewell parties, goodbye hugs, and late nights has culminated in my sitting in this chair in the soft sunshine at my next gate.

Am I nervous?

Only when I pull my passport out of my backpack and put it back, and then can’t remember where my passport is!! Only when I think “Am I forgetting anything? Did I drop something?” Then, the heart pumps quickly, the breaths come fast and short, and the head starts to spin while I pat my pockets and recheck my bag. Only when I have I find my flight number on the departures screen and end up reading the gate number four times before my brain finally registers what I am reading. And then, I start to walk away and quickly double back to read it again, cuz I forgot.

Other than that, sure, I’m cool.

My brain is having difficulty registering that I am actually on my way to Israel, that tomorrow I will not understand a word if what is being said around me, that all the dreams and ideas and plans are going to be materialized.

Nuts, no? That we dream and imagine and hope and plan for things, t and then can’t believe that they are actually coming to pass.

There! They are calling us to board! Pick up your backpack, Rebekah. Did I leave anything on the chair? Under it? Do I have my passport? Yes. Phew. OK. Let’s go.

To Whence I Depart

A year and a half ago, a plan began to take shape.

For several years, I have been wanting to go to Israel to learn Hebrew and to immerse myself in the Israeli culture. The challenge of going to a foreign country where I don’t understand diddly of what people are saying and of learning a foreign language in order to happily exist in said country truly appeals to me. At the time when this idea was born, I was 16 years old and there was no way my dad was going to let me go traipsing around the Middle East by myself. Still, I looked at all sorts of programs: summer volunteer programs, kibbutz ulpan programs, etc. I even looked into finishing high school in Israel. I was bent on the idea that I was going to serve in the Israeli army, therefore I needed to get over there A.S.A.P so I could become fluent in Hebrew. And I am not even Jewish. Nope, not even close.

Hmmm. Looking back on those ideas, I am not sure what to think of myself now.

Anyway. That didn’t happen.

What did happen was that my younger sister Jabniah was about to turn eighteen. That was a year and half ago. Suddenly, my mind beheld the amazing opportunities this significant number brought. If my sister was 18, that meant that she was old enough to participate in the programs I had been doing so much research on. That meant that she and I could go together. And if we were to go together, there would be a much better chance of getting my dad’s permission and blessing to embark on such a journey ( you know: the buddy system).

Oh boy!

I told my sister about it. She loved the idea. We asked my dad. He said YES! Wow.

So, here we are–18 months, 500 e-mails, dozens of phone calls, hours of research and planning, and 3 lbs. of bitten fingernails later–only 24 days from departing. It does not even seem that this is really happening.

In Israel, we will first spend five months on a kibbutz on the Mediterranean coast learning Hebrew and working on the kibbutz. As soon as that programs comes to an end, we will go to a dance course in Karmiel. Finally, we will attend an intensive first aid course in order to then volunteer as paramedics at the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross.

I know, it seems very simple, summarizing nine months into three sentences like that, right? But, I am certain that every blank space between every letter will soon be filled with adventures small and large, surprises, new things seen and learned, and, yes, even let downs and disappointments.

Well, alright then. Let’s saddle up.

Sew…. what do I do?

Being 22 and out of high school, I often get asked that inevitable question: “And, what do you do?”

It used to bother me that I had no “normal” answer to give. I mean, how could a then-20 year old possibly be just finishing high school and have no plans for college? In my mind, I felt pressured to follow the pattern set by — well, who knows who set that pattern — of finishing high school and dashing off to college. “What are you going to major in?” Good Lord! how was I supposed to know that?! I liked so many things (I still do), I couldn’t possibly have chosen one over another for fear that I would miss out on the one I didn’t choose. To me, college was a place that society dictated I had to go, but that I, deep down, had really no desire to attend. I suffered for a year, beating myself up for not having a plan like everyone else did, for not being like everyone else. Ironically, being like everyone else was the last thing I wanted to be — or so I told myself. My constant worry and fretting bellied my words.

I thank God that He didn’t give up on me then, when I was being such a stubborn fool. So bent was I to do what everyone else does when everyone else does it, that I blinded myself to where I actually was and to what I actually had and to what I really wanted to do. Thus, I made myself miserable. However, thanks to His mercy and grace, I have come to (and continue to) learn to appreciate where I am in life and with whom I am living it; in effect, I am learning to bloom where I have been planted. Now, looking back, I realize that the reason I wanted to dash of to college was that I thought it would make me happy, that I would finally be everything I could be when I left (to anywhere!). Ha! I really had to get my thinking straightened out. To be happy anywhere else, we must be happy where we are now.

So, what do I do?

I sew.

I design aprons and sell them. They are unique and personalized. If you buy one of my aprons, no one else in the world will have one like yours. “And this is better than college, how?” you might ask. Well, because it is the means of achieving what I discovered was truly my desire all along: to travel to a foreign country.

Sew, that’s what I do. And the money from the sales is being put towards the great adventure looming in my future. But, we’ll save the details of that for another post.

Allow me to clue you in on my destination (because I am just nice like that): the Middle East.