Personal Update – Israel Vacation & The Long Summer Ahead

20190522_085654I’m back from a fantastic trip to Israel with my mother and I’m glad to get back to work. Call it a quirk but I’ve never been prone to wanting the endless vacation: they recharge me, give me some fresh perspective and that all just makes me all the more ready and excited to get back to work- both professional and creative.

I mentioned in my post prior to the vacation that I like to break my life into “seasons,” so it looks like the next season will be the long summer (is it too late for Game of Thrones references to carry any currency or did the finale completely sour that market?) Before I get to what’s ahead, I’ll start with highlights from the trip abroad:

Israel

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The Western Wall in the Old City

My mother and I have never traveled together except to visit family on holidays in Trinidad. Frankly, when I was growing up we didn’t have money to afford these kinds of trips. Traveling to far away countries without someone (e.g. family) to stay with was the kind of thing for the wealthy and well to do. I hope and believe my mom feels a well earned sense of pride being able to make this trip happen, even if it came with the bittersweet acknowledgement that she’s getting older and that she “wanted to do this before I’m too old for it.”

While she complained that father time was clearly holding her back she did spectacularly despite days of 100 degree heat keeping up with me for 12-15 mile urban hikes for days. I truly am glad she made it happen, it was a memorable experience and one I’m also glad she could share now that I’m older and have a better sense of how to adventure like this. In brief I follow a few philosophies/techniques:

  1. 20190524_123328
    The Wohl Rose Garden

    Pay the extra money and have your phone/data active for the trip if possible – Google Maps is a fantastic safety net for traveling abroad so you never feel like you’ll ever be irreparably lost.  Besides that, it was also a great resource for finding not only the major landmarks, but also flagging off the beaten path areas/sights of interest. You can bookmark everything, and since it’s all on a map, easily plot out a productive walking route.

  2. Never eat at the hotel restaurant – Okay, I know ‘never say never’ but with very few exceptions, hotels generally aim for convenient and safe. They know they’re catering to out of town clientele so even if they have “local cuisine” on the menu it’ll be watered down from what you’ll find out there. Take a page out of Anthony Bourdain’s book, and pick true local spots while you’re walking around among the city itself, speaking of which-
  3. 20190525_104305Walk, don’t ride – The difference of experience being on the road versus being carted from spot to spot is immeasurable. You’re able to catch sight of small diversions, find gorgeous side streets and plazas other people will miss. My mother and I did have to take a tour bus out to the Dead Sea (but even then we took one that took us through the Negev Desert rather than on the highways, so that’s how I ended up taking this pic from a peak overlooking Jericho). Not just the freedom, but also the exposure: you see and feel so much of a city’s heartbeat and tempo by walking through it. How the people who live there move and interact through it, it’s the truest way to fall in love with somewhere new.

20190522_203600.jpgThe big highlights of this trip were seeing the Old City in Jerusalem- walking the streets of it both during the day and later at night through all the activity, people, vendors and life of it at both times. In Tel Aviv, speaking to the value of walking and wandering: I noticed on my route a bar named the “Whiskey Story: Bar & Museum.” A whiskey museum? I’m a big fan of scotch, so I asked my mom if she wouldn’t mind checking it out. We stumbled into a bar that has the 5th largest collection of whiskeys in the world. I was elated, to say the least.

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“Make Hummus Not Walls,” pictured here with Mohammad Mtwah, words to live by.

Then the last big thing we did was venture to the Palestinian side of the separation wall. Aside from the Walled Off Hotel and the incredible and poignant art adorning it, I met a man named Mohammad who took the time to show us around (he wasn’t a tour guide and didn’t ask for payment, in fact he was a shopkeeper who actually gave my mom and I some extra souvenirs out of gratitude for us listening to him). I listened to a lot of his stories about the different art on the wall, the meaning behind them, and life in Palestine with the wall. Needless to say, it’s not the kind of experience we would have had if we’d done the sterile bus tour version of a “trip to the Holy Land TM”

Finally the history: it’s interesting enough seeing all the religious sites and history associated with Israel (the garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, etc etc), but it’s so much more wonderful and impactful seeing them in the context of a living, thousands years old city with day to day life through it. All in all, it was a trip to remember. I don’t get this feeling often, but it was really something special and I can’t help but think I’ll be back there again someday.

Looking Forward

20190521_155018We move forward, after all. I took a look at my months leading up to the vacation with a sense of pride and accomplishment, it meant a lot to me to hear my mother tell me she’s proud of it all and glad I can take the time to relax on vacation. Parents: if you ever feel the slightest bit of pride in your children tell them; tell them often. It means a lot that my mom is so supportive and glad for my artistic output in addition to my career. I told her that as much as I was busy with I didn’t feel stretched too thin, because I love everything I’m doing. The main thing is just that I need to tweak the balance a little bit.

I signed up for Improv Level 3 with UCB, I’m holding off on Sketch Writing Level 2 for now because while I can manage 2 classes at once, it’s heavy on the UCB time consumption on my schedule- it means not only attending the classes, but also giving up at least one night a week to attend shows for each class as well.

20190522_085654The Podcast is still going strong, so that’ll continue to release episodes in a steady stream- I’m tremendously proud of the offbeat episode with guest Alex Creswick that went up while I was abroad, and I’m looking forward to our next episode in the schedule featuring Monika Smith where we’ll be using the Ghosts of Gen I to share ghost and horror stories.

So where are the tweaks? With the freed up time in my schedule, I’ll be working as a mentor with Imagine LA (that finally got kicked off right before my departure, I met my mentee, and had a great time getting to know him), and getting back to working on my novel, The Spectacular Seraphim Versus the Fame Monster.

IMG_20190527_123653_827Finally, I’ll be keeping up my series of Artist Profiles. I’ve loved every conversation I’ve had so far, and I’ve set a soft goal for myself of 12 (but I’ll happily continue past that). I already have a plan for the culmination of the series, but I’ll keep that a surprise for now. Thank you to the artists who were willing to sit with me already for a conversation to get this going, and I look forward to the conversations upcoming- I’ve already lain some early groundwork for who comes next and it’s a delightfully varied bag of artists. I can’t wait to get to it.

That’s all for now, I’m going to get over the last licks of my jet lag the only way I know how: by working through it.

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We move forward.

 

Author: Y. Balloo

Amateur novelist / Work in progress.

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