I haven’t blogged in months, so short intro: I went to Africa for a few months after the army and blogged about it and then I got upgraded to Aspen, Colorado and wrote about that, and just when I thought life could get no better, I started law school and never saw the light of day again. I stopped writing, which was probably a good idea, considering the most exciting thing that’s happened to me lately is getting caught sneaking a coffee into the library.

But now I am in Switzerland, pajama-wearing-exam-period is behind me and next semester is far, far away… in Tuesday-land…

Day one was what you might think of when you think of a family trip:

Pressure! How much did you pack?! It’s already 11:02! We’ve GOT to go!

Very mature and responsible me: “Did you guys take my passport?”

Yes.” (this will be important for later).

Again: “You definitely have my passport?”

“Yes! Let’s go!”

Night: Discussing today's new words: Ausfahrt. Placenta. Dog.

Night: Discussing today’s new words: Ausfahrt. Placenta. Dog.

We go. We are way too many twenty-something year-olds sitting in the backseat, but regardless, Mom has packed an enormous bag of food for the plane. By the time we reach the airport I think one granola bar is left. I think about how great it is to travel with your parents: you don’t have to think about anything and everything is paid for.

As we’re making fun of something we probably shouldn’t be making fun of, Dad says, “Okay, now seriously. I want everyone to think”- quiet – “about what they can take out of their bags. Everyone packed way too much stuff.”

So we take out all of our bags and stand around thinking about whether anyone has a sock or two he can live without. Hmm… Nope. Dad, of course (this is the man who can spend an afternoon squeezing one ketchup bottle into another. The man who sees consolidation as an act of worship.) finds a watch that can go back (yes, watches take up a lot of space) and the whole bus waits for him to run back to the car.

We get off the elevator – wrong floor. We keep following the leader – wrong terminal. I begin to wonder if blindly following your parents is actually a wise thing to do. I receive an answer when we get to security.

Everyone’s name is called as each passport bearer smiles to the woman. Okay, that’s everyone, right? Hmm… Danya. Danya, where’s your passport?

I glare. “You know I don’t have it,” I say. “I asked you twice this morning…” and then we play the blame game for a few more seconds, stare stupidly into space for a few more seconds and then look a little harder. Nope. No passport. (But just think how much space we saved!)

Realizing I may not go to Switzerland. Look at Dad in the background

Realizing I may not go to Switzerland. Look at Dad in the background

Pressure, running, phone calls, “this is the FINAL call for flight…” We’re on!

And then we’re off, we walk out to the freezing Basel air and pile into the too-small car with bags on our laps and under our feet and in between us. Everyone thinks very hard about that sock they should have gotten rid of. With every inhalation there is less air for the others to breathe. Dov farts.

And once again, we are bratty little kids in the backseat. Someone hits someone and we’re all laughing, Matan says something about a headache and Mom immediately tells him he had too much sugar today and blames Dad for letting him and Dad steps on the gas because we have to make it to the train by 20:30, it’s what we planned our whole day around and obviously we have to stop for dinner (meal number 35 that day) and miss the train. But we still get nearly killed trying to make it.

Me, very near my breaking point

Me, very near my breaking point

After we all put on every possible layer of clothing we have (except Matan:”You’re going to freeze to death! Where’s your in-between-your-nose-and-lip-warmer?!”) we make it to the train, from there we take a shuttle to the hotel (followed by a boat, a spaceship and a teletransporter) and three years later I am in my bed in the hotel and I fall asleep.

But once we finally got on the slopes (that is, after a five course meal, trying on all our clothes and everybody else’s, renting equipment, making a plan, planning our plan-making and staring stupidly into space), it was stunning and white and we skied all over and I had an amazing time – as did my toes, at about 16:47 when I took them out of those boots.

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Marco Polo Solo Stays Home

Traveling is inhaling pieces of world.

When I explore a new place, I try to push aside the me in me. I empty myself of plans and presumptions, making room for the life around me to seep in. Since January I’ve been inhaling: stale motorcycle fumes and crisp Colorado air; I’ve been hearing new words and dancing to new beats; I’ve met people of different colors and calibers. I reached new heights, looking down from the crest of a continent; I got hit from behind and sank low into strong-smelling fears I never thought I would encounter.

I had intended to travel longer. I wanted to fill myself with more stories as my pockets emptied and time ran out.

But when I came home from America, I realized I had inhaled a little more than my body could hold. An exhalation was inevitable; but if I did it thoughtlessly, in between travels, I would scatter millions of moments into the air and they would never be mine again.

I have to unwrap all the presents I’ve been given, and they have to break up into little cells, to flow in with the rest of my blood, to form connections with the person I was and to turn me into the person I will become. Now, they are simply moments. I must turn them into something, into me.

Traveling shakes me up and throws me down; it forces me to find my own steady ground in this senseless, spinning mess. But if I do nothing with my memories, they will sit on the shelf collecting dust like old family videos. As William Faulkner said:

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.”

Putting words together is my way of making a little sense of life. But sometimes, I have to arrest my own motion in order to do so. Do you remember the story about the poor villager who goes searching for treasure and later discovers it had been in his own home all along? If I am still searching for something, I can’t have to have to look too far.

My next journey will begin in a little over a month, only this time it will be in a seated position. I am going to live and study in Jerusalem and maybe be a bit normal for a while. I got a glimpse of the world; it’s big. And, contrary to prior beliefs, I am not. But although I may be smaller and less significant than the planet, I still have a shockingly large appetite. And there are still a few thousand places on the menu I want to try.

Watch out, world, I’ll be back.

What People Do When They Have Too Much Money

The population of Aspen comprises two types of people: the Very Rich and the Very Intelligent. The Very Rich go to Aspen to ski, golf, and to check off items on the list below. The Very Intelligent go to Aspen to attend meetings at The Aspen Institute, or simply to be Very Intelligent in a mountainous setting.

Being neither, it is quite surprising that I got there at all, and further yet – on a private jet. Somehow I did, and although I learned a thing or two from the Very Intelligent people, what I really gained insight on is the lives of the Very Rich. Here is what they do with all of their rich-ness.

My feet getting accustomed to luxury

  1. Get facelifts.
  2. Attend dinner parties, benefits and other events they cannot stand.
  3. Host dinner parties, benefits and other events they cannot stand.
  4. Buy a dog of an obscure breed and show off that he is superb at doing X. Usually something unheard of, like fetching a ball.
  5. Send the dog to a spa.
  6. Actually, I am not kidding.
  7. Get their kids tested for ADD, ADHD, Stupidity and all sorts of conditions that we all have, just don’t have the money to know about.
  8. Buy only organic food.
  9. Buy only organic food for the dog.
  10. Buy second homes.
  11. Buy third homes.
  12. Buy Ferraris.
  13. Buy yachts.
  14. Buy private jets.
  15. Buy good ol’ pickup trucks.
  16. I am kidding.
  17. Eat gourmet.
  18. Hire personal trainers to get rid of the “gourmet” around their waists.
  19. Hire a nanny (Hooray for nannies! Hooray for people with too much money)!
  20. Hire a chef.
  21. Give the chef a list of allergies and restrictions regarding each member of the family. During a different nannying job, I was warned about a kid who was “allergic to caviar”. If I would have been asked what “caviar” was when I was his age, I probably would have said a musical instrument.
  22. Hire a cleaner.
  23. Hire a driver, pool person, accountant, gardener, personal shopper…
  24. Hire a house manager.
  25. Above all, hire a shrink.
  26. Buy top of the line kitchen appliances and never touch them.
  27. Buy top of the line bike tools and never touch them.
  28. You get the idea.
  29. Shop for clothing at stores with Italian names.
  30. Eat at restaurants with Japanese names.
  31. Bite out of snails, slugs and other slimy creatures with French names.
  32. Swear by gurus with Sanskrit names.
  33. Engage in an activity in which you have to pay for the upkeep of tens of grassy acres, buy special old-people clothes, lots of little sticks, a little cart to drive your little sticks around, hire a person to drive your little cart with your little sticks around and throughout the whole day not even break a sweat – and consider it a sport.
  34. And then, due to all the stress caused by completing this whole list – get another facelift.
  35. Repeat until money runs out.

No, those little hairy things in the stroller are not humans.

Minutes in Manhattan

In Africa I met a Lebanese woman who had spent her life traveling. “You become everywhere you have been,” she told me. Walking around the City, I am a little bit African.

I step out of the underworld of the subway onto 34th and 6th. Some guys with neon shirts yell, “Empire State! Empire State! Book ya tickets, book ’em now!” and a blonde family stands with a guidebook and blank faces.

I walk among tourists

(they travel in packs, wear “I heart New York” shirts, don’t pronounce the word “coffee” like they’re swallowing a grapefruit, walk at a normal pace and look up at buildings)

and I walk among Real New Yorkers

(they carry at least two bags, talk on their cellphones/iphones/blackberries/cameras/watches, drink coffee, and walk quickly enough that you’d never stop them, but slowly enough that they’d never miss a good sale).

I walk past hot-dog stands that conjure a whiff that blends in with sewers and parking garages, out of which crazy drivers come out to run over even crazier pedestrians.

I pass a homeless woman. She is blond and wearing a flowery skirt and a thick layer of mascara. I think about the boys I saw in Africa with tattered tops and shower shoes.

I wander into a cafe. I gape at the counter behind the glass, at glazed cinnamon raisin buns and at a coffee crumble cake. Suits and ties and high heels form an orderly, impatient line. Lipstick mouths talk fast, order faster, eat faster and run back out to work.

I walk along towers soaring up to the sky – sleek, glass, reflective.

And along old buildings, ornate. Behind their decaying walls I can almost hear the polite aristocratic chatter of men in top hats and women in gowns. I walk up broad, sun-stained stairs onto a pillared facade – The New York Public Library.

I stroll through an exhibit depicting the lunch scene in New York in the past century. You should check it out if you’re around. Did you know Jello was introduced to the world as a diet food? And that people used to get hot, gourmet meals by pushing a quarter into a machine called an Automat?

New York is not Africa. It’s a madness that makes perfect sense, itineraries crashing, personalities clashing, like the jazz musician’s wail jamming into the delicate notes from the philharmonic, stilettos stepping on flip flops, double-cappuccino-frappe-latte-with-diet-organic-local-soy-milk clinking with a beer glass.

People wear deodorant.

They say excuse me.

The sidewalks are clean.

There are no 2 meter potholes in the sidewalk.

There are sidewalks.

No one points at me and yells, “mzungu.”

No one points at me at all.

Everyone has some place to go, or reason to pretend that they do. No one just sits (unless it’s in a Starbucks), no one just thinks (unless it’s through an app on the iPhone) no one just is. Or maybe they are. They do seem alive.