Wednesday, February 2, 2011
It has been two nights since I left. No gunfire to put me to sleep. Instead I wake up in the comforts of a snow encrusted Prague, and some resemblance of a routine. I am watching the country I enjoyed so much fall apart from the safety of a Czech beer and a leather chair. I am no longer in the regime imposed stone-age I was in. There are times when I lament how connected I am, and then when I do not have any connection, as was the case when internet and phones were shut down by the regime for days, one comes out with a new appreciation.
I learned I can survive under even harsher circumstances than what I thought. Gunfire, stone age living, and the unknown sure help one grow up. I learned of a truly neighborly and compassionate lifestyle, that men would arm themselves to protect their families, property and friends. This is thankfully not a distinctly American value, but shared by those who seem so distant from us. That distance gap greatly shrunk when I saw the struggle these people went through. When we go abroad we notice how different things are, but we seem to see how much alike we really are. For once it wasn’t about making an extra buck, or ferrying tourists to old piles of rock. It was about freedom and choice.
I was very pleased with my packing job, which leads to my next one. The plan is to hopefully head to the Gulf for more Arabic, but certain people need to give clearance first for that. If not I will head back to Drake. Now I wait and as I look out on the snow next to the tarmac, I reflect.
I marveled at the pyramids. I listened to Jimmy Buffett by the Mediterranean Sea. The hookah smoke rings were formed, and prices expertly slashed with a look and a few Arabic phrases. Entire conversations were had with me in the Arabic corner, and an Egyptian representing the English language, which later turned to all Arabic, and a smile to my linguistic competence. We can judge places from an air-conditioned tourist bus, send a few postcards and then return to our western hotels and call it “travelling.” Every once in a while comes the opportunity to get off the beaten path and to see something different and real. I am not sure what words if any can best describe what we saw differently than our counterparts holed up in a 5-star but to sum it up I would use “heart.” I got to truly see the heart of a city, which expanded to the heart of a nation.
I spent 12 days in the sandbox. I pulled out 4 months shorter than I had planned, with a little less clothing, but so much more in memories.