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Archive for November, 2009

About the settlement freeze

Last week, the Cap’n informed me (after returning with his Friday morning shopping) that the Associated Press was in the shopping center of Efrat interviewing settlers about the 10-month settlement freeze proclaimed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

I suspect most people opposed it, and for good reason.  Settlements are not now, nor ever have been, an impediment to peace here.  Economically speaking, settlement building is good for everyone: it provides jobs for Arabs over the Green Line, gets the PA out of having to build a sustainable economy, and provides badly-needed housing in housing-strapped Israel.

Settlements in Gaza were not an impediment to giving away that land.  When Jews were forced out of their homes, the buildings were simply bulldozed, and philanthropists who hoped to help the Palestinian Arabs jump-start their new economy purchased the greenhouses left behind by the Jews (which were subsequently destroyed or dismantled and sold to Egyptians during the “impromptu” Rafa border crossing opening).

There is, of course, a second reason why settlements should not be considered an obstacle to peace: Many Arabs (including the PA and Hamas) consider Tel Aviv a settlement.  What do I mean by this?  Friends of mine, in conversations with Arabs, have been told that peace in the Middle East is simple, and merely requires dismantling the State of Israel, making the entire area including Israel, Gaza, Judea and Samaria a Palestinian Arab state.  Or, when asked about his feelings about the settlements, another Arab scoffed, “I don’t want to live in Gush Etzion.  I want to live in Tel Aviv.  I want to live in Ra’anana.  I want to live in Herzliya Pituach.”  If these and other Arabs (including those governing the West Bank and Gaza) hold out hope of getting the Whole Enchilada, what’s the big deal about settlements like Efrat, Ma’aleh Adumim, and Karnei Shomron?

But I digress.  Netanyahu, I believe, is dealing with the Great World Delusion (that settlements are a stumbling block to peace) by calling everyone’s bluff.  He’s saying, “You’re idiots, but rather than telling you you are, I’m going to show you that settlements are just an excuse on the part of the Arabs not to make peace.”

So what will happen?  New housing permits are frozen in the West Bank.  Infrastructure (schools, shopping centers, health clinics, parks) can still be built in the settlements.  Previously approved housing permits will be honored.  And not included in the freeze is united Jerusalem.

But won’t that be a problem?  Indubitably.  But not because “East Jerusalem” belongs to the Arabs.  It does not.  Arabs are permitted to build legally in any part of Jerusalem, Old City or New City.  Jerusalem is united under Israeli governance.  Peace-loving people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds are welcome to enter it and see its wonders, or worship where they please.  Jerusalem no longer belongs to Jordan, or the Ottomans, or any other Arab colonialists before them.  United Jerusalem is Israeli, and (at least under this government) is not negotiable.  Arabs will not be transferred out of the city in the event of peace (unlike what Arabs expect will happen to Jews in an eventual Palestinian Arab state).  But Arabs lost their sovereignty over Jerusalem—and the Hebrew University, the City of David, and the Mount of Olives cemetery—when Jordan lost them in the Six-Day War (1967).  It’s time to move on.

I would like for this freeze to do what it’s supposed to do, i.e. call the bluff of the Arabs who will just come up with another excuse for why they can’t establish a state of their own and blame Israel for it; show the rest of the world the whiners and incompetents that the Arabs are; and provide a relatively low-cost way for Israel to demonstrate cooperation without risking as much as it did by withdrawing from Southern Lebanon and Gaza, both of which led to increased terrorism, kidnappings, daily mortar and rocket attacks, and war.  The freeze, unlike a withdrawal, can be called off at any time (and will be, says Netanyahu, if the Arabs don’t belly up to the bar and order their pint of peace within the allotted time frame).

Will the freeze work?  Most likely not.  The Arabs will assuredly come up with another excuse (already have, in fact), another hand-out they demand from the Israelis before returning to negotiations.  The world will refuse to recognize Arab intransigence or criticize their foot-dragging, instead putting more pressure on Israel to sacrifice  more land, security, or basic needs to try to coax the Arabs (which in turn will not work either).  And in the meantime, housing construction will be slowed, raising housing prices and rents to far above their actual value.  The main consolation is that within 10 months, we should be back to business—and intractability—as usual.

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Regular readers of my blog are pretty familiar with my version of Israeli politics–center-right in Israel, far to the right on an American scale, and way off the deep end in most of the rest of the world.  What may be slightly more surprising is that my politics have at last managed to make their way into my dreams.

I was curled up with Bill, taking a nap the other day, when I had a dream that I was back in high school.  (Not mine, but one similar to one I taught in eons ago.)  The entire student body, with the exception of the seniors, was off campus for some event and to entertain the seniors, the administration had conjured up a plan to treat them to a day-long presentation of “conflict resolution” activities, a la the Middle East.  We seniors were to convene in a large conference-style room, and the “conflict resolution” team were to lead us through various activities and discussions during the day.  What actually ensued, however, was that a small team of a dozen or so Hamas operatives arrived, set up their computers, faxes, and telephone lines, and proceeded to ignore us seniors, instead carrying out a typical day of organizing, fund-raising, and pigua (attack)-planning.  Not only didn’t they talk to us, their conversations among themselves and the people on the other end of the phone were in Arabic.

When I realized what was happening, I got irritated.  (This is a dream, after all, and emotions are often mellower than in real life, at least for me.)  I went to the office of the vice principal, the highest authority in the building, and saw him editing a family video at his office computer.  (He was clearly enjoying his day off.)  When I told him what was happening, he shrugged his shoulders, still staring at the computer screen.  Either he didn’t believe what I was telling him or, more likely, he was too lost in his own thoughts to act on the information.  And if what I said was true, what did it matter?  Surely I had homework to do, papers to write, or poker to play with my fellow students.  Why get upset about a day lost here or there?

Why indeed.

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Praise to HODS

Years ago, while living in the US, flyers from the Halachic Organ Donor Society appeared at our shul giving information and a pitch for traditional Jews to consider donating organs.

Many traditional Jews (and not-so-traditional ones) believe that because Judaism embraces the value of kavod ha’adam (respect for the human body), does not generally support the performance of autopsies, and has very strict guidelines for burial, that organ donation must be out of the question.  This is not true.

The HODS website includes the transcript of an interview with Rav Yehudah Meshi-Zahav, founder of ZAKA, a volunteer organization whose members go to scenes of murders, road accidents, suicides, and terror attacks to ensure that every casualty is as intact as possible in preparation for burial.  (This sometimes involves locating body parts that have been dislocated, or mopping up blood.  Rarely a pretty task.)  In the interview, Rav Meshi-Zahav states that “A person who was killed, or deceased, needs to be brought complete to burial. This is the correct tradition. One the other hand, any chance you have to save a life, this mitzvah is no less important than the mitzvah of respecting the dead. If a person can do chessed [donate organs]…and it’s the same chessed, no less than what we do with the dead…the same chessed, perhaps the last one a person can do after he enters the other world…is saving another person’s life.  There is no mitzvah greater than that!  …The phrase, “One who saves one life, is as if he saved the world” exists in organ donation, as well…Because saving another person’s life is beyond the elevation of one’s soul.  After the person who donated dies, the people [who received the organs] continue to do great things.”

Not all rabbis are in agreement about how to define death; some accept brain death, others do not.  HODS acknowledges that there are different ways halachic authorities rule on this issue, and their donor card allows donors to specify the definition of death for the purposes of donation.  The HODS website has an entire page dedicated to videos of rabbis around the world and their positions on organ donation, as well as personal testimonials.

Uninformed people may believe that they cannot be donors if they are sick or elderly.  This is not necessarily the case.  The website has a page which includes a diagram of all of the organs, tissues, and bone that can be donated, and includes two pages of FAQs for more information (here and here).

I am on HODS’s email list, and occasionally receive emails with news about the organization, updates, and success stories.  In the most recent email, I read that a 24-year-old expectant father in Teaneck, NJ, recently received a liver and is doing well; Rabbi Adin Steinzaltz has recently accepted brain death and supports organ donation; the HODS website is now readable in Spanish and German; and November is Organ Donor Sabbath Month, in which congregations are encouraged to educate themselves about organ donation, conduct donor drives, discuss organ donation as families, and invite speakers (experts, donor and recipient families) to address the congregation.

HODS encourages Jews to become donors by signing up for donor cards, and accepts donations for their very worthy work, which has saved over 100 Jewish and non-Jewish lives.

Just think–a mitzvah one can perform when one can no longer perform mitzvot.

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Those who forget history…

There are days when, as a Jew and an Israeli, I just cannot bear to read the news.  It’s just too awful.  Yesterday was one such day.

Two headlines I read yesterday read as follows: “Germany attacks Israel settlement plan before visit” and “‘Why Israel’ film canceled after violent German leftist protest.” The first was a totally predictable leftist European claim that the peace process is being stalled because of continued building in united Jerusalem.  The notion that Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem are already part of a (non-existent) Palestinian state is but one example of the fantasy that fills the heads of ultra-liberal thinkers, leaving no room for reality.

The second, however, was far more disturbing.  Claude Lanzmann, a French Jewish filmmaker, made a film about how Jews found a refuge in Israel after the Shoah.  The movie house in Hamburg scheduled to screen the film had to cancel it after being “threatened with violence.”  Protesters ranged in age from 16 to 70, and screamed “Jewish pigs” and “faggots” at would-be moviegoers.  A Hamburg radio host was struck in the face by a protester.  The Left Party, which originally associated itself with the “protesters,” is the fourth-largest represented in the Bundestag, and is well-known for its anti-Israel stance.  (A Left Party MP has been seen at pro-Hizbullah and Hamas rallies “where Israel was compared with Nazi Germany and the Jewish State’s right to exist was rejected.”)  The report says that two police officers, called in to stop the protests, declined to do so.  Whether this is because they were concerned for their safety at being outnumbered, or because they do not take seriously this sort of violence in modern-day Germany, I do not know.

The pièce de résistance?  “Andreas Benl, a veteran observer of the leftist scene in Hamburg and a member of the political group Hamburger Studienbibliothek, told the Post that ‘anti-Semitic attacks are not taken seriously in Germany. Only when they become an international problem for Germany’s reputation.’”  While pro-Israel blogs and an Israel-friendly alternative weekly reported the incident extensively, mainstream German media ignored it.  Only three weeks after the incident did Der Spiegel Online venture to report it as news.

All I know is that when this sort of behavior in Germany hits the international press, it is Germany—not Israel—that should be compared to Nazi Germany.  When my grandmother was studying in Berlin in 1929, she reported anti-Semitic incidents as small as Jews being denied participation on field trips with other students, and as large as Jewish students being thrown from the university’s second-story windows.  Germans rioting over a Jewish film being screened?  Police turning the other way?  The press ignoring it?  Sounds like the sun is setting on the Weimar Republic modern-day Germany.

Here we have not right-wing nationalists but, paradoxically, pro-terrorist left-wingers harassing Jews, creating exactly the same conditions that forced those Israelis depicted in the contested film to take refuge in Israel.  Let me get this straight: It’s the bedraggled, traumatized victims of the Third Reich who sought refuge in Israel who are like the Nazis, and not the hate-mongering, violence-loving, freedom-denying, vitriol-spluttering, jack-booted goons who robbed, tortured, and terrorized them, murdered their families, and gave them nightmares for the rest of their lives.  Got it!

It’s quite a gift the Germans have—to contribute the lion’s share of hatred and violence to the worst century civilization has ever known, and after suffering crushing defeat, paying reparations, and going down in history as the biggest murderers of modern times, beginning all over again a few short decades later. 

So Germany, from where is your next Hitler to rise?  Will you borrow another Austrian, or will you nurture one yourself this time?

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On Jewish writers and writing

Last Wednesday, author Tova Mirvis spoke at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute on the subject, “Writing Between Worlds: On being a Jewish writer.”  She set out to answer the two questions most often addressed to Jewish writers: Do you consider yourself a Jewish writer?  And, Is this a Jewish book?

I am fascinated by these questions with respect to writing too, and was naturally disappointed at not being able to attend her talk.  In the hope of discovering if she has addressed these questions in writing elsewhere, I emailed her to ask.  She responded, “I wrote an essay on this subject in a really interesting anthology that came out a number of hears ago called Who We Are: On being and not being a Jewish American writer.  Some of what I talked about came from that essay.”

Has anyone read this essay, or seen the questions addressed by other writing Jews?  Or, since some of you are published writers yourselves, addressed the topic in your own writing or speaking?

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I hate growth charts

The Cap’n took Bill for his regular well-child visit last week to Tipat Chalav, the children’s clinic where they do weight checks, observe the child’s development, and offer dietary advice.

Back in the US, I used to find these regular well-child visits to the pediatrician’s office pleasant.  Our children were usually healthy, thank God, and doing okay developmentally.  They have always been small (around the 25th percentile) though, and around the nine-month mark they all begin to dip down on the growth charts (usually down to the 3rd percentile). We would usually leave the office with words of praise and encouragement from our children’s pediatrician, who knew our children well and knew to expect these dips as one child after another passed through her office.

Why the dips?  The Crunch children are all breastfed long-term–Beans and Banana for over 2 years, Peach for 15 months, and Bill ongoing.  Growth charts are based on the growth patterns of children who, by and large, are formula-fed.  These children, in addition to lacking the Crunch family’s genetically small frames, tend to beef up faster than breastfed children.  And while healthcare professionals should understand the limited value of growth charts in evaluating breastfed children, they tend nonetheless to use the charts as a measure of where ALL children should be.  (Do they also register the same alarm at finding not all adults of exactly the same average height and weight?  I thought not.)

Nurses and doctors over the years have told us that it’s fine for our children to be small; they just get concerned when the kids dip down in their trajectory, suggesting that their growth has slowed.  And yet there is nothing to suggest that there is anything wrong with our kids.  They aren’t sick.  They haven’t stopped growing.  They’ve just stopped blowing up at the astonishing rate they once did.  And are they not still getting what the public health world claims is Nature’s Perfect Food?  If it REALLY is Nature’s Perfect Food, aren’t the kids getting what they need in the way of sufficient fluids, fats, and balanced nutrition?  Or did Hashem cock this one up, and it’s up to humans (and Better Life Through Chemistry) to fill in the gaps with things like formula, vitamin and iron supplements, and appetite stimulants?

Like a number of mothers I know, I have dropped out of taking my kids to Tipat Chalav.  I am still supportive of immunizations, and there is nowhere else to get them.  But I am truly sick of being badgered every time I have a 9-month-old about how my healthy, typically developing child isn’t measuring up to an arbitrary instrument based on statistics from Norwegian immigrants in Kansas City.  (This last observation is from a friend who trained as a pediatrician.)  So for the foreseeable future, it’s up to the Cap’n (who has smiling, nodding, and totally ignoring nagging females down to a fine art) to take the kids.

N.B. We were warned soon after making aliyah to take what Tipat Chalav nurses say with a very large grain of salt.  Our family doctor in Beit Shemesh went to so far as to encourage us to contact her anytime Tipat Chalav said anything that alarmed or concerned us.  We don’t panic when they harass us about putting Bill on his tummy more, or about giving him more solids and less breastmilk.  But it’s still hard for a mother not to get teary or ticked off at a stranger making free to be so bossy and judgmental.

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Lessons from twenty years ago

I’ve been thinking these past few months about what I was doing 20 years ago.  Following my college graduation, I traveled for six months in Asia and Europe on my own, and saw wonders and learned things that I would never have seen or learned otherwise.

I had dutifully ordered my life according to expectations: going to school, getting good grades, staying out of trouble, going to college.  But as my college graduation approached, I became increasingly disillusioned with the well-traveled road I was on.  I was sick to death of school and could not bring myself to face an entry-level job right after graduation.  Fortunately, I had saved my allowance from the time I was a second-grader, and had a nice little nest egg.  I had always wanted to travel, and decided that this would be the perfect time.  My parents, though, were apprehensive (and just a smidge disapproving) of my plans and, from February on, began asking me what my plans were post-graduation.  I told them that I was going to travel, but they clearly hoped I would change my mind, because they kept asking.  And asking.  And asking.

My mind was made up, however, and while my college classmates were planning their weddings, buying cars, going to law school, and taking entry-level jobs at Dewey Cheetham & Howe, I was buying a backpack, a round-the-world air ticket, a Eurail pass, and a passport.  I was a little nervous about setting out on my own, especially since I had only been to Canada and Mexico, each time as one of a group.  But with a little Valium (thanks, Dad!) and a healthy dose of faith in humankind, I took the plunge.

My itinerary included four stops in Asia (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Nepal), and then on to Europe, where I visited Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, and then spent the latter half of my time abroad in England.  I visited friends, or friends of friends, when I had any on my route, but most of the time I was on my own and made friends along the way.

It would be impossible for me to relate everything that happened to me—my journals and letters are extensive during this period—but some of my experiences were memorable enough that they’re worth sharing.

In Taiwan, my friend and I did our shopping in the outdoor market in Taichung (the city where she was living that summer).  Live fish were flipping on wet tables, whole ducks lay in rows, their limp heads hanging off the edge, fruits and vegetables were covered in flies, and I don’t even want to imagine what that brownish gelatinous mass was (similarly covered in flies).  As I walked past the stalls, surrounded by the summer heat and elevator music, I begged my friend not to buy anything.  She insisted this was the freshest, cheapest food available, but I had a hard time letting go of my image of brightly-lit, air-conditioned American grocery stores as the only place to buy food.  She had purchased the Fu Pei Mei Cookbook (written by mainland China’s Julia Child) and was eager to try out some of the recipes.  Suffice it to say, we did our shopping at the market and despite my doubts, I rolled up my sleeves and pitched in in the kitchen that night and the several following, where my friend and her housemate created some of the most delectable dishes I’d ever tasted.  (And far and away the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten.)  The lesson here: Food does not have to be beautiful to taste good.

Outside Hong Kong I visited a Buddhist temple (the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery), and after I’d wandered around, taking in the many groupings of Buddha statues, large and small, a group of Buddhist monks began chanting a service.  The sound was wonderful—like nothing I’d ever heard before.  I decided that next time I went traveling, I would make a point of taking along not just a camera, but also a tape recorder, to capture the sounds as well as the sights.

Most people are fascinating, and everyone has stories to tell about their lives—especially fellow travelers.  I had been with friends, touring, cooking, teaching English, and eating with my friends’ friends up until the time I flew to Bangkok.  This stop, I was on my own.  But looking back, I was never on my own for very long.  I made friends in Bangkok, with whom I went out shopping, eating, to watch Thai dancing, and seeing the sights.  When I went north to trek through the Golden Triangle, I was with friends I’d met in Bangkok, and along the way.  When I went south to Koh Phi Phi, I met up with friends as well.  And every time I returned to the guest house in Bangkok, I returned with a new friend.  Traveling seems to wake people up, open their eyes and ears, and predisposes them to meeting other people.  I was never without someone to talk to or take in the sights with.

In Nepal, I planned a trip for a few days to Pokhara, at the foot of the Annapurna Mountains.  The morning I was due to leave, I went for breakfast to a restaurant across from the bus stop.  Backpackers were required to leave their packs outside the restaurant (to make it possible for the wait staff and patrons to walk between the tables), so I set mine down next to several others lined up outside, and went in to eat.  When I finished and went out to claim my backpack, it was gone.  Once I absorbed that my things were gone, I realized there was nothing for it but to get on the bus for Pokhara anyway, and deal with my loss later.  (I still had my glasses, passport, money, airline ticket, and Eurail pass in a pouch around my neck.)  In Pokhara I purchased some clothing, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a towel and shampoo, all of which fit into a plastic bag.  For the next week or so, those were my worldly possessions and do you know, it wasn’t half bad.  Yes, I’d lost my camera, my gifts, my clothing, my digital watch (that I’d had since I was 12) toiletries, and other stuff.  But it was just stuff.  In the end, against any odds I could have imagined, the backpack  (sans camera and watch) found its way from the Himalayan trek it had been taken on by accident to the American Embassy, where a Peace Corps volunteer returning to the US a few months later checked it with her baggage, and it was returned to my parents’ house in my absence.  This was one of many instances were the advice to travelers to halve the clothes and double the money gained relevance.

Copenhagen was one of the loveliest cities I’d ever seen: beautiful buildings, canals, Tivoli Gardens, cobblestone streets, well-mannered people, impeccably dressed old ladies and, after being surrounded by palm trees for months, I got my first glimpse of barberry bushes—so like home.  I knew the Jews owe a debt of gratitude to the Danes for ferrying them to Sweden to escape the Nazis, and indeed, their moral compass still seemed intact: To this day, I’ve never seen people stand so patiently at a “Don’t Walk” sign with no vehicles in sight.  The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was playing Beethoven’s Third Symphony (the “Eroica”) at Tivoli while I was there.  I was enthralled throughout the performance, and stood and applauded with everyone else at the end.  When the orchestra resumed their seats for the encore, they played a piece I’d never heard before, with a distinctly European sound and a bouncy tempo.  From the delight of the audience, I realized it must be a piece by a Danish composer.  The Chicago Symphony Orchestra knew what its patrons had come to hear, but they also knew what they’d be delighted to hear—an excellent lesson in hakarat hatov (showing gratitude).

After four years of studying German in college, I was delighted at last to have the opportunity to speak it.  Germany was filled with too many wonders for me to list—visiting Beethoven’s birthplace in Bonn, the Cologne Cathedral (and the museum of Roman ruins underneath it), seeing friends in Konstanz am Bodensee—but at the same time, it was the autumn, and large groups of schoolchildren seemed to be traveling the same routes tourists had taken during the summer, filling up youth hostels and causing the off-season youth tourists to be cast out to look for other accommodation.  I and my meager possessions had been turned away from the youth hostel in Konstanz one morning and with my small budget, it occurred to me that I may have to find a sheltered place outside somewhere to spend the night.  I had a newfound sympathy for the homeless, and it was only by sheer accident that I met up with a friend (whose address had disappeared along with my backpack back in Nepal) in the local department store later that day, and went home with her to stay.  This time, as so many others, I learned not to despair, and that I would eventually find what I needed if I waited for it.  Good things often happened at unexpected times and in unexpected places.

In Vienna, there were more things to see and do than I could have done in a month.  A city packed with beautiful architecture, unrivaled bakeries, cultural activities galore, and out-of-this-world shopping, I nonetheless managed to have a miserable few days there.  The youth hostels were full, the inexpensive hotels in my Let’s Go book were filled, and the only place I could find to stay was a seedy hotel with dodgy staff and clientele, a common shower with a clogged drain, and a bed where half the springs were broken.  (I discovered that there are worse things than cockroaches, which I sometimes had in my quiet, private rooms in Nepal.)  It was the worst night of my life, and I spent all the next morning finding a more suitable place to stay.  Oy Vienna—everywhere I went, people were rude, gave me wrong directions (usually sending me in the opposite direction from where I needed to go), and were appallingly behaved (I’ll never forget the sight of two women crouched behind a tombstone in the Jewish section of the Central Cemetery, peeing).  The only two people I met whom I really liked at the hostel where I ended up staying were…German.  I realized that sometimes it is actually possible to go for days without meeting a friendly face.  (I look forward someday to returning to Vienna and having a better experience.)

I was in England for the last three months of my journey, during most of which I worked in a pub in Cambridge, roomed in a house on Chesterton Road, and sang once a week in the Trinity College Choir (where the graduate student conducting the Verdi Requiem said he didn’t mind having a townie in the choir in the least).  The bar staff at the pub was international: an American, a Pole, a Brazilian, a Nigerian, a South African, two Irishmen, a Scot, and the usual assortment of Englishmen and -women.  The Brazilian and I had the closest friendship, not only because we were women (and not English), but because there was something about being from the New World that set us apart from the others.  I loved buying fruits and vegetables in the outdoor market in Cambridge, passing the colleges and the Round Church, and shopping at the Spoils Kitchen Reject Shop.  But my favorite thing, which I only discovered shortly before I left to return to the US, was the Fitzwilliam Museum.  I knew it was there, but I only had one evening and one morning off per week at the pub, so shortly before Christmas I made the time to go.  It was a treasure trove of art and history, but the thing that struck me most about it was that unlike American museums, it didn’t cost a fortune to get in: it was free.  (Donations accepted, of course.)  This, and the other free museums in Britain made me understand the importance of nations preserving their culture and making it available to everyone, free of charge.  Whether Britain has the politicized and controversial equivalent of the American National Endowment for the Arts, I don’t know, but the message sent by all the fights and cuts to the NEA’s budget is that American culture is for the elite, not for everyone.  I couldn’t disagree more.

Returning to the US after six months away was a shock.  I wasn’t in college anymore, and I wasn’t traveling; I had to get down to the business of living.  But that year, and the ones that followed it, I vowed to do whatever I could to make my life as much like vacation as I could.  I would travel whenever possible, spend more time outdoors, explore where I lived (the state of Oregon, at the time), and always think of how the people I met in the wonderful places on my trip lived.  I would never take a working toilet for granted again, I would learn to cook so I could make some of the wonderful foods I’d eaten, and I would always remember that you don’t need more than you can carry.

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