A walkabout is a rite of passage- a person will go out into the wilderness to discover his or her identity and purpose, and then return home.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Coming Up Next

My plans for the rest of my "walkabout" have changed a lot since a few weeks ago, not to mention last fall before I'd even embarked on the first part of it.

[I just went back and reread my predicted plans for the year... wow have those been tweaked a lot.]

I got back from Costa Rica at the beginning of January and set a goal for myself to be off on the next part of my adventure by the beginning of February.  I gave myself a month to relax, be at home, have parents, see friends and figure out what the heck I was going to do next.  And where I was going to go.  And for how long. <- I had a lot to figure out.

Wait, Cleome, I thought you were going to Europe for four months to backpack around?  Yeah, let me finish.  As I was saying, I'd been thinking hard about my next steps, and for a multitude of reasons ended up coming to the conclusion that I actually didn't want to aimlessly backpack around Europe for that long of a time.  Because, like:
1) It's still cold in much of Europe at this time of year. 
2) The tourist Schengen Visa is only good for three months out of any six month period (and I don't want to try and jilt the authorities, thereby risking never being allowed into the EU for the rest of my life).  And the visa includes most of the countries I actually want to travel through.
3) Thanks to actually having traveling experience now (yay!), I know that straight traveling for one month, let alone four, is exhausting.  AND
4) Europe is ridiculously expensive.  More than I was originally imagining.  I'm a soon-to-be poor college student- I can't be going into debt before starting school.

So I was pretty jittery for a while, as I had no real idea of where to even start now that my semi-solid plans for February-May were out.  You'd be surprised how hard it is to decide on a course of action when you can do essentially whatever you want.  It'd be great to use the time I have to work on maintaining my French or Spanish, or participate in something that might serve to guide me/provide me with experience for a future career path [not that I have any idea what that would be], but....  Honestly, when you really have no limitations, there are about a jillion amazing things you could do.  And you don't want to squander this awesome opportunity by choosing something stupid, or uninteresting, or pointless, or or or


Sorry, but as you may be able to tell, I was a bit fragile concerning my future plans for a while.  However I managed to calm down and reason rationally with myself, and figured out a few things concerning what I did want to happen on the next part of my year off:

  • I realized I wanted to do another volunteering project for at least part of the rest of year.  I just like feeling useful and helping others.  But while an organization in Ghana serving to educate the local population about HIV/AIDS and trying to prevent the spread of the disease sounds incredible [trust me, I looked it up], I don't feel like I necessarily have to be volunteering in a super intense situation trying to save lives to feel successful.  I really loved the type of volunteering I did at the orphanage- helping out but also being able to have my own life in the community.  (Also, I'm currently done working with children.  I'll be doing that this summer as well and I just need a break.)
  • I am really interested in going to a country where the primary language is not English.  Or another language is spoken prominently, at least.
  • Ideally, I'd go somewhere that is still close to Europe, so I could maybe travel there after volunteering.
  • And I didn't want it ("it" being the flight, program, living costs, etc.) to be extraordinarily expensive.
Somehow [don't ask me how], this all lead me to determining a location: Israel!  Now I just had to find a program that was affordable, open to 18-year olds, and sounded interesting....

Idea 1: Eilat Hotel Volunteer
Summary: A 5-month program where I'd live/work in a hotel in a southern resort city with a bunch of other volunteers from all over.  Hebrew lessons would be included, as well as a public transportation pass.  

I quickly ditched this idea as a 5-month long commitment was just too limiting for me.

Idea/Attempt 2: Kibbutz Volunteer
Haha, yes, "attempt" is the key word here.  This plan was almost a go, until about two weeks into the process of applying....  

A kibbutz is a uniquely Israeli socialist-type community (all members work for the community itself).  Historically agriculturally-based, many kibbutzim have branched out into tourism and industrial work.  But the majority accept volunteers for 2-6 months at a time simply because there are more jobs than members available to do them.  Living there while working is free (room and board all payed for), but you make no money and the work is often quite demanding, with long hours and can often be tedious [for example, stuffing pillows in a hot, windowless factory for eight hours a day?  No thanks].   But there are always lots of volunteers who come from all over.  Plus the members of the kibbutz are more often than not pretty interesting.  It's supposed to be hard work, a bit isolated, but a lot of fun, too.

Anyway, after sending in all my forms in record time (and my full placement payment), they informed me that I was apparently ineligible for the program.  Because of my age: 18.5 instead of 19.  Get this- all kibbutzim welcome volunteers aged 18-35, except for Americans and Canadians.  WE have to be 19 in order to join.  

Anyway, after some frustrating back and forth with the Israeli office leader (who is very firm in her "no exceptions" rule), it became apparent that being a kibbutz volunteer just wasn't going to work out right now.  Which maybe was for the best, as it required me to step back, leading me to-

WHAT I'LL ACTUALLY BE DOING.  (Just got confirmation!)
Idea 3: Ecotourism Development in Nazareth
Third time's the charm, huh?

I'm going to be volunteering at the Fauzi Azar Inn for two months, beginning February 2nd. 
The Fauzi Azar Inn is a beautiful 200 year old Arab mansion that was converted into an inn in 2005. The Fauzi Azar Inn promotes ecotourism in Nazareth and works with the community to contribute to its development in various areas. The inn uses local resources to create new work places, to raise the self- image of the local community, and to encourage economic growth while preserving the universal values of natural and cultural preservation. The aim is to introduce in Nazareth, which is the largest Arab city in Israel, a new model of tourism and thus "bridge the gap" between Arabs and Jews. At the same time the Inn is creating a model for increased tourism along the Israel National Trail (Shvil Israel) and the recently completed Jesus Trail in order to promote both trails and the corresponding economic potential.

Volunteering duties include hosting guests and reception work, working in the kitchen, maintaining hiking trails, and guiding tours of the old city of Nazareth.  I'll be sharing a nearby apartment with the other volunteers (three others, I think?), and have all the time when I'm not working to explore the city of Nazareth, not to mention the rest of Israel.

Nazareth appears to be a very interesting part of Israel.  It is located in Northern Israel, near the Sea of Galilee, and is supposed to be very beautiful.  The city contains the largest population of Arabs (both Christian and Muslim) in the country, yet there is still a Jewish presence in the north of the city, which should make for a complex melting pot of cultures, opinions, and ideas.  

Yeah, I'm going to work in a renovated mansion, bridge the gap between cultures, and meet a bunch of cool travelers.  No biggie.

After volunteering through the end of March, I'll take some time to explore the parts of Israel I haven't gotten to yet (maybe hit up Egypt for a bit?) and then fly over to Western Europe [finally the European aspect of my trip comes into play].  I'm free until the beginning of June, at which time I need to come back in order to work over the summer as a camp counselor, so I could potentially be in Europe for six weeks or so.  Clearly the last few months of my free time need to be molded into shape a bit more, but there's plenty of time for that.

I'm just incredibly relieved to finally have a semblance of a plan for the rest of the year.

SO.  EXCITED.  And I should probably start getting all my crap together.

xoxo, Cleome 

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