Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Afterward: Taking it all in

I needed this trip to Israel. The country is a very exciting place, in a much different way than Beijing. Those ten days were fast paced and eventful, but in spite of the rush I left physically, mentally, and spiritually restored. I feel more alive now than I did before

Em and I enjoyed Greece at a much slower pace, the way that country ought to be seen. Those days in Greece gave me a chance to rest and reflect like I have not been able to in ages, maybe since before my college years.

Now I am re-charged and ready to make the most of the rest of my time in Beijing. I do not know what these next five months will bring, but somehow I do not think it will be more of the same. So come what may, the night is still young. Life, I'll have another round!

Speaking of which... as soon as I came back I found out that my crew will be working mandatory overtime and Sundays. This is more than 75 hours a week. (In seven days, there are only 168 total hours.) My uplifted spirit is going to be tested by an unrelenting daily grind for the foreseeable future. However, every cloud has a silver lining - I'm making pretty good money.

Five months 'til Texas. Can't wait!


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Another Week Away

After Israel, my parents had to return home to work, but my sister and I hopped across the Mediterranean for one more week of vacation in Greece. We were very lucky with the weather; afternoon temperatures climbed into the 70's and the lows never fell below freezing while we were there. Athens and the surrounding landscape is gorgeous. I cannot remember the last time i saw greener hills, a crystal calm sea, and such deep blue skies.

The Greeks are very proud of their country and its ancient history. The locals we ran across in restaurants and shops were also very friendly: they love to talk, they love their food, and they love to talk about food. Greek advice, on just about anything and everything, is freely given. Emily and I were advised about the pros and cons of various local cuisines, museums, date spots, politics (American and Greek) and when/where one can find an organized student protest against the government.

Emily and I visited a lot of old temples and saw the best museum in the world (so now I don't have to see any more of them!) During our last three days, we took a bus tour through the oldest, and some of the most beautiful, regions of Greece: Corinth, Mycenae, Arcadia, Olympia, and Delphi.

Delphi was my favorite, because the contemporary village is quiet, nestled among imposing olive-tree-covered mountains, and still within sight of the Ionian Sea. Em and I did not have time for an island cruise, which is what everyone who is anyone should do while in Greece - and we missed out! I guess there is always... next time?

Temple of Zeus with Acropolis in the background.
The Oracle at Delphi

Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon
"Aww," at Sounion

A Week Away

Well, I'm back in Beijing! Sorry to those of you who never knew that I left! I meant to mention (before the fact) that I was taking a two week vacation. I did not go home, but met with my family in an entirely different part of the world. We traveled to Israel, and then to Greece.

How was the trip? This is a question I could spend months answering. Israel is an amazing country. Barely the size of the state of Delaware, this place has a richer history and culture, and a more beautiful and diverse people and landscape than most anywhere in the world. The weather was nice too, 40 - 75 degrees the whole time I was there, and clear skies except for a small shower as we drove trough the Jordan river valley.

What did I do for ten days in Israel? Well, I flew to Tel-Aviv, toured Roman and Crusader ruins along the Mediterranean Sea, stood on Mt. Carmel, walked through the Valley of Armageddon, sailed the Sea of Galilee, drove through the Golan Heights and the West Bank, was dunked in the Jordan River, heard a sermon on a mount, floated in the Dead Sea, drifted through the Holocaust Museum, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, cried out at the wailing wall, photographed the Dome of the Rock, visited a hill shaped like a skull, and saw the empty tomb... I could go on.

Having been there I now have a better understanding of the stories of the Bible. All of those places are real. The history of Christianity, and the history of the world takes on a whole new light in this context. This visit also gave me a much better insight into the conflicts of our time in the Middle East. I could write on and on, but I will let these pictures speak volumes instead.For those who have never seen Roman ruins before...

GI Girls

New Year's Eve at the Wailing Wall

Local Wildlife

The Sea of Galilee

Garden of Gethsemane