Between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel
"I love your curiosity and helpfulness! Meeting you has been a treat."
How did he react?
He nodded and said, "Thank you."
How did I feel?
I met Raz on a bus. It was a late night towards the end of my time in Israel. While the driver steered the rattletrap through the streets of Jerusalem my head, heavy with tons of impressions, kept butting against the side window. Its thudding sounded like a base drum next to the car's clattering. Together my body and the vehicle made for a marching band with the street's knolls serving as a score. I craved sleep. Five minutes into the ride I decided against a steady lump on my forehead, left the little percussion group and gave up on the idea of resting. Fourteen year old Raz, who sat next to me, noticed me lift my head and open my eyes. He asked me, "Are you visiting?". Smothering a yawn I nodded.
Raz' question initiated what was to become a one hour chat. With me being too tired to keep our dialog going Raz broke the silence each time we ran out of fodder for conversation. Candidly he found new topics to ask me about for two hours straight. His curiosity astonished me: I know boys who are his age, and not a single one of them would be down to twist their tongue looking for the correct English words to interrogate a random woman on a bus on what she studies, what her country is like and how her experience traveling his country has been. Neither would they reveal their dreams, hobbies and belief system to her. Raz did. He translated his daily prayers to me, explained how being religious did not rule out having a girlfriend, and that his friends and him had agreed on the rule "it is okay as long as no one sees it.". His eyes twinkled for the latter statement. When I asked him what he wanted to be when he is a grown up his answer came before I had finished my question, "A Capoeirist. I love Capoeira." I smiled, "Cool! Do you do it regularly?" "Yeah,", he said, "I go to class five times per week." "Five times!", I cried, "That is a lot! I am impressed." After a pause I added,"I think it is amazing how committed you are." He nodded, "Yeah. I believe sticking with things is the key to everything in life." For a moment I stared at him. Then I asked, "How old are you again!?"
Though I disagreed with Raz' attitude on the Israel and Palestine conflict I was grateful he shared his standpoint with me. This way I learned about one Israeli teenager's political view. (No, I am not calling one person a significant number. And if there is one thing I learned in Israel it is that this country is unimaginably deeply divided on its political future. However one teenager's position is more than no teenager's position.) While Raz himself may not be significant for all of Israel's adolescents there was certainly something significant about him, even in our disagreement: His openness. Talking about Palestinians his voice sounded confident and his choice of words was absolute. "Never", "Impossible", "They" and "Us" were voiced several times. At first I was sure firmness had taken over the boy's curiosity now. But once I started raising critical questions he listened intently and engaged with my disagreement.
I admired that. To me his candor, both in speaking and listening, was the leitmotif of our conversation. It lighted up when he told me about his favorite show, The Vampire Diaries, his dream destination, Brazil, and his family story. When we reached our destination Tel Aviv Raz openness reached its peak. He had asked me where I had to go and had found my connecting bus on his phone. As we got off the bus together he grabbed my bag for me and carried it down two blocks to the next bus stop. On the way we stopped at a red light. Raz pointed at it and said, "So I am not sure if they have this in Germany or the US. Here's how it works: If the light shines red you need to stop because then the cars cross. Once it switches to green you are good to go." For the second time that night I stared at Raz and remained silent. This kid, who had never left Israel in his entire life, was farsighted and empathetic enough to investigate his surrounding and warn a stranger like me about functions I might not be familiar with. A couple of moments later, when I had found my language again, I told him, "You are the sweetest and most considerate guy ever.". He shrugged, "I just don't want you to get hit by a car."
Yup. A little realization:
I took two weeks off from the blog. On purpose. Before the end of the year I decided to throw in a break which I did not plan to interrupt until I felt the urge to write again. Not from a sense of duty but from an authentic impulse. I wanted to seize the opportunity to liberate from the pressure to write which I had felt at times. A blurry mix of my own set of rules, a tight agenda, reader's expectations or my idea of them, excitement for the project and writing itself etc had been my companion at times while the sun had rose outside and I had been sitting in the kitchen, googling synonyms for a complimentee's uniqueness.
Today, after 14 days, I opened weebly again. Unexpectedly it did not happen because I suddenly died to write, at least not consciously. Instead I felt a sense of anger. I was upset, not because I missed sitting in the kitchen at night, or realizing that rather than sketching an encounter for a few minutes composing my impressions of someone had taken me five hours. It was because I craved going back to my commitment.
Over the course of this year I have developed a relationship. Not just to the sole act of writing but to this specific format, to the way reliving the compliment encounters makes me connect with the world and last but not least to you, dear reader. To doing something I love. Writing this blog has become a part of me. I feel more me with it. Its routine has taught me tons not just about writing, complimenting and approaching people. I have learned about myself, my way of relating and my patterns as well. Through the interactions, yes, but also through the way I deal with my blog task.
A year-long project is an amazing teacher. That I know now. It sets a frame and provides stability. In times of change and uncertainty it is something to rely on. Simultaneously, at other times, it provides the sense of obligation discussed above- and the option to liberate from that. By taking this break I went from I have to (blog) back to I want to. I took a step towards adopting my world as my own. For me that was a major takeaway. I could not have gained that without my blog practice existing in the first place. I am glad that I picked blogging up again. If you happen to be thinking about starting this one thing, be it a blog, a band, a spiritual practice- anything that consists of regularity over a longer period of time and an activity you like here is my advice: Do it. It's worth it.