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New friends and new places

A view of the Old City of Jerusalem from the rooftop quarters of the Citadel Youth Hostel

What a whirlwind of a week. I visited Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv. I climbed the Mount of Temptation, visited ruins of the oldest city in the world, visited the tomb of Yasser Arafat, slept on a rooftop overlooking the Dome of the Rock, woke up to church bells and calls to prayer, touched the Wailing Wall, visited the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and walked the road to where He was crucified and buried. I toured a Palestinian refugee camp and witnessed works by the mysterious street artist, Banksy. I sat in the Mount of Olives and watched the sun set over the Old City, and swam in the Mediterranean. All of these events made for an incredibly surreal week. If you ever study abroad in the Levant or find yourself in the area, these are all things you should be sure to experience. Any further description wouldn't do these attractions justice, though, and if you're interested there Wikipedia articles and travel guides that will tell you anything I could about all of these attractions.

However, what you can't learn on Wikipedia is what you can learn from others. I've always loved making new friends and learning from their life experiences and perspectives, and so far it seems like travel allows you to find new and different experiences and perspectives.

One of the most interesting lessons I learned was from a French girl named Clem. When I met Clem she had just arrived in Jerusalem from New Zealand, where she had spent a few months working and learning English. In our first conversation with her, my friends and I were prone to asking questions like, “What are you doing in Jerusalem?” “How long are you staying?” “What are your plans today?” “What are your plans tomorrow?” “Where are you going after this?” She had come to Jerusalem because she wanted to, and tomorrow she would wake up and do whatever she felt like, and would continue doing that until she wanted to go somewhere else. And then she would do that. It was hard for me to wrap my head around these answers, but it really shouldn't be. Every human lives to be happy, and she's doing exactly what makes her happy. I've always had a plan, and I like it that way. But I had never really considered what else I could be doing, and meeting someone so carefree was really refreshing.