Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature. -Rachel Carson
The President stole your land. While easily forgotten thanks to the hundreds of other scandals since, in an unprecedented act Trump reduced Bear’s Ears National Monument by over a million acres and Grand Staircase-Escalante by over 800,000 acres. Recently, documents accidentally released by the Department of the Interior revealed biased decision-making in favor of extractive industries. All the while the Trump administration continues to favor special interest groups and profit, rolling back regulations meant to protect us and the environment at an alarming rate.
Leaving Lebanon, we traveled through the fleshpots of Dubai and Singapore, and after one red eye flight, followed by 12 hours of sweaty subway, bus and ferry rides, arrived back to Tioman Island. We’ll spend the next month working and playing in Malaysia before returning to the states. For now, I haven’t looked in a mirror or worn shoes in the week since I stepped off the ferry, and already being here feels a bit like coming home.
I want to live so densely. Lush. And slow. In the next few years. That a year becomes ten years. And the past becomes only a page. In the book of my life.
The debate between Gary and I began only a couple of days into our trip: Could Lebanon make the cut into our top five favorite countries, or would it wind up just in the top ten? Writing now, on our flight home, the debate has changed to whether Lebanon is top five, or maybe, just maybe, in the hallowed top three. Either way, we absolutely loved our ten days spent exploring only a small fraction of the country, and hope to have the opportunity to return one day.
Thanks to a winning combination of coffee and pseudoephedrine I was able to drag myself out of Dahab and onto a bus, followed by a ferry, arriving late in the afternoon to Aqaba, Jordan. The next day, still feeling a bit rough, we slowly made our way to Wadi Musa. The “Valley of Moses,” this little town draws its name from the biblical miracle that occurred when Moses struck a stone with his staff and a stream began to flow. The town itself wasn’t anything special, mostly set up to cater to the hoards of tourists heading to play Indiana Jones in the ancient Nabatean city of Petra. (Gary feels it is important to note here that I actually haven’t seen India Jones, but I feel like I still get the idea.)
I arrived in Cairo prepared to hate it- I’d heard nothing but horror stories, from the pollution, to the noise, to the crowds (although in a city of 25 million I suppose that’s to be expected), to the touts eager to cheat you out of your money, it all seemed like a lot of hassle. Fortunately, after Ethiopia, Cairo was a total breeze, and we actually really enjoyed our two short days there.
Before heading to the Middle East to work a six month contract, I knew I might be in for a bit of culture shock, especially as an American woman. Accordingly, I tried my best to mentally prepare myself ahead of time, and to not let myself fall into the pit of eurocentrism. I arrived in Oman feeling ready and excited for the upcoming months, but what came as a shock wound up not being the new country I was living in, but rather the UK-based company that hired me.
Buckle up: we’re still in Ethiopia, and this post promises to be just as long as the last. We arrived in Lalibela wrecked from our trek in the Simiens, but did our best to perk up with a fresh mango smoothie before heading to tour some of the famous rock churches. To be honest, that first day a lot of the information our sweet guide shared with us went over my head, but even in my groggy state it was impossible not to be impressed. The churches date back to the 11th century and are dug straight into massive chunks of basalt, modeled after Jerusalem in order to save the country’s Orthodox Christians the arduous pilgrimage. Pilgrims shrouded in white circumambulated each carved monolithic church, bending down with effort to kiss the steps of each entrance. The insides were equally impressive, with intricately carved stone pillars and frescos covering the walls. We ended our first day as the sun set at St. George’s, a massive Orthodox cross cut into the earth, seen in every Ethiopia tourism brochure. That night we had dinner with some new friends at Ben Abeba, a kooky hilltop restaurant, where after a local gin and lemonade the owner let us play with their rescued baby klipspringers, and now I can die happy.
Gary and I arrived in Addis Ababa via Dubai late, and after changing money immediately began making delirious ‘Hamilton’ currency puns (would you like some birr, sir?), eventually finding our way to the hotel to crash for a few hours. The next morning we set out for a full day around the capital, starting with the National Museum to visit Lucy, a 3.2 million year old australopithecus afarensis. Fun (and challenging!) to say or spell, it was cool to see and learn about one of our oldest relatives, even though her skeleton is only 40% complete.
Flights are purchased, plans have been sorted, and in seven short days my time working in Oman will come to an end. These past six months have felt long, with far too much time spent feeling isolated and lonely, as well as dissatisfied with/ uninspired by my job. In these final few days I wish I had a tidy life lesson to write down, something about the value of persevering through unhappiness perhaps, but mostly I’m just glad this phase is over, and I’m trying to find the silver linings from this experience where I can.