Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dusk in Hojancha

This is an excerpt from trip leader Dan Buettner:
It's 6:00 pm now and this is a magical time in Nicoya. I'm sitting on second floor deck of our bunkhouse. It's a place that looks a bit like a tree house with long pole railings, expedition chairs and lizards skittering over creaky floor planks. It's very calm. Soft light sifts through palm and mango trees overhead. This is the dry season, so the afternoon's heat quickly radiates skyward with the receding sun leaving and invigorating evening coolness. Our jungle lodge, completely filled by our 13-member team, sits on the edge of Hojancha--a typical northern Cost Rican village. Every morning, the jaguar-like roar of howler monkeys wakes us up. Now, I hear only the lugubrious whine of a million cicadas and the tinny, polka-like wail of musica ranchera from some faraway radio.

About this time every night a certain holy chaos erupts. All day the writers, photographers, and videographers have been chasing down stories, trying to find living examples of the longevity secrets our scientists are uncovering. In a few minutes, we'll eat a dinner of beans, rice, fried bananas, and river fish--all washed down with seedy, mucous-like passion fruit juice. Then, 13 lap tops will open, the naked light bulb overhead will dim with the power drain and we'll become a mobile production house. Joseph, Tom and Damian will edit videos, Sabriya, Eliza, Michael and I will write scripts and dispatches, Gianluca will edit photos, Michel, Gianni--and Dr. Elizabeth Lopez, a new psychologist who just volunteered for our team-- will compile results of today's surveys and Nick will gather up all the content and upload it to the site by 4:00 am. Then we'll slump into our bunks until the monkeys begin howling at dawn.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Tree houses, Rodeos and Centenarians

The Blue Zones website is up and running. I've been in charge of the Mystery Photo and Daily Data sections...other than that I've been doing direct interviews with the centenarians and
nonegenarians (age 90+) which has been pretty cool. These are some
phenomenally happy people. The guy we hung out with yesterday lives about 30 minutes from the nearest paved road, up in the hills above Nicoya town, with his wife, daughter and grandchildren. He never went to school, doing agricultural work his whole life. I was amazed how well he and I could understand each other, how well jokes flowed
between us.
We're staying at this great lodge that feels like home just outside
this small village called Hojancha that has a central park painted in
pastel colors. There is a rodeo/festival that has been going on near
here and I've been lucky to end up there the past two evenings. The
first night I was there with the photographer and a video guy. We got
into the lower level (directly behind the barrier on which all the
young men sit). When they went to shoot I climbed up alongside the
young men. See the photo attached or my blog. First they were doing
barrel races, then bucking broncos, and then the bulls. A 5 year-old
girl competed in the barrel race. I went up to the bleachers and made
friends with the ticket checker. The next night I went there she let
me and my crew in for free.
The crew is pretty cool. Good bonding situation. Every night we hang
up a sheet and show the video for the next day. Several american
video guys and journalists, the trip leader and his brother, an
Italian medical expert who studies longevity, a Belgian demographer
and an Italian NG photographer. We also have a Tico liason who works for the demographer here in CR. The science behind the trip is moving along slowly. The journalism side is moving quickly. Its an
interesting dynamic. One side is always pulling at the other.
The tree house at Tommy's farm is unreal. It's built straight up this
tree that hangs over the side of the hill, about 60 feet high. Three
walls, mostly windows. The side facing the central valley is open.
The view is so complete. You can see every piece of the central
valley. It was so beautiful to see it, so shockingly full of all the
moments and feelings I've had about being back in this country, that
when I looked up after ascending the first staircase my knees buckled
and my head had no choice but to look away. I dont know if a view has ever affected me so strongly. It took minutes for me to be able to actually look up, stealing only glances at first. I stayed behind to
be there alone and saw the sunset from my spot curled up in the bed up there.
There is a full bathroom up there too. No door to the bathroom
though, open faced, exposed to the distanced central valley. The
shower is encased in glass too. The view will be enjoyed there too. I
plan on spending the better part of several days up in that tree once
the Blue Zones trip is over.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fear of flying

I've never identified myself as a person afraid of flying; so far from me that i made effort to separate myself even further from those people.
Up high above an endless field of thick clouds, one solid mass, I see in the distance a tiny version of an airplane. It seems like it's only a couple hundred feet away, yet it's barely visible. I imagine the hundred-some people inside, the massive force that the steel structure appears to be to them, to those insde, those reliant on this object for protection.
I am humbled.
Humbled by clouds, by sheer mass and the realization of tiny-ness.
My heart soars as I struggle to maintain visual contact with the plane in the distance as it slides smoothly over the sea of clouds. I am one with the thrill of flying, I am shedding the unimaginableyet common feeling that views flying as a chore, an efficient mode of transport, a wasted day. I am returning to the root of it, the magic of it, the gratefulness for my life and my world.
And I feel connected with those who fear flying: at least they tap into the reality of the experience, avoiding the numbness that modern-day life has instilled in us. At least they realize what our bodies are physically doing, experiencing, where we are, the height of it, the speed, the celestial nature of it all.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Wedding

Monday, January 08, 2007

Back in DC

This picture is from the beach that leads from Tel Aviv to Jaffa, the ancient Arab port of which Tel Aviv was meant to be the Jewish version.

I'm back in DC. On Wednesday I head west to Los Angeles where I will be serving as best man at my brother's fiancee's wedding and shortstop at my brother's wedding softball tournament. Good times will be had.
The following Wednesday I head south to Costa Rica were I will be serving as Producer on the Blue Zones exploration of centenarianism ( ---check it out). I will be in Costa Rica until early March, at which point I hope to interview for grad school and throw some ragers in the DC area. Sweet joblessness.

Check out my autobiography for the Blue Zones trip:
Michael Mintz, Producer
-has travelled in six of seven continents
-speaks fluent Spanish
-successfully filled an entire US Passport (requiring that new pages be added)
-was once in a room with four living US Presidents
-won High School County Championship in Volleyball (and made All-County team)
-graduated from University of Michigan with a degree in Psychology
-worked on Kerry/Edwards 2004 campaign as Advance Staff
-lived and worked in Costa Rica from December 2002-May 2004
-has travelled in 35 foreign countries
-slept in over 135 different beds over the course of May 2004-May 2005
-founded the philosophy/travel website (now

As a kid I was mostly into playing sports with my friends. I always said that I wanted to be a psychologist when I grow up. I wasn't much of an explorer.
The first exploration I remember took place when I was around seven years-old. My older brother and his friends were planning on heading into the woods behind my house to find the abandoned (and supposedly haunted) house deep in the forest. I begged them to let me come along. The house had been destroyed in a fire many years before and my brother told me that the ghost of the witch who had lived there still haunted the premises. I was scared out of my mind.

When I was a kid I hated having to change my clothes with the turn of the seasons. In the fall, when the weather turned cold, my mother would force me to wear long pants instead of shorts. I always said that I didn't like the feeling of the pants. In the spring, my mother and I would have the exact opposite fight: I always refused to start wearing shorts again, claiming that shorts didn't feel right.

It wasn't until I went to Spain at age 20 to study the country, the language and the culture that I became interested in travelling abroad. I have spent more than three out of the last six years out of the country and I believe that it has shaped me into who I am today. I have learned that the society that I grew up in is just one of the infinite realities that exist on our planet. I have learned that even though there are a six billion people on Earth with six billion different lives, there are certain pieces of life that all people share. I have learned to be patient, to trust the righteous path, to trust myself and my choices. I have learned when to swim with the current and when to swim against it. I have put myself in difficult situations, mild danger and physical discomfort. The more I challenge myself through travelling, the more I appreciate the warm comfort of coming home---the familiar faces, my family and friends, the food I grew up eating, and, perhaps most of all, my bed.

Despite all I've experienced and learned in the past 20 years, despite the physical discomfort I've put myself through on my travels, the 30-hour chicken bus rides through mountainous northern India, the extreme heat of New Delhi in May, and the insatiable hunger that two months of eating noodles left in my meat-deprived stomach during my time in Asia, some things never change. To this day I struggle with pants. Yes...PANTS. I tend to find a pair of pants that I really love and wear them everyday for 6 months, maybe a year, until they fade away and die. I struggle to adjust when I lose a pair of pants to the gods of wear and tear. I mourn the loss. Then, some day not to long after, I find a new pair of pants, which I will undoubtedly wear for the next 6-12 months. Also, I haven't worn jeans since the early 1990's. I tried a pair on at the Gap a few weeks ago. It was repulsive.

My point is this: after all I've experienced, all I've learned, there are certain pieces of our personality that will never change. And that sums me up pretty well. I put myself in tough situations, I challenge myself to adjust, to change, to become a better person. But there are certain parts of me that are simply me. That's Michael.

Monday, January 01, 2007


on Christmas Day 2006 i had the single most _____ experience of my life.
the taglit trip ended at 8AM in the Tel Aviv airport. a bunch of us headed for Jerusalem where i met up with my israeli buddy and left the others to their hostel. we made plans to meet up in Bethlehem, a short busride via the Arab bus system through the West Bank to the edge of the city which, like all Palestinian cities, is surrounded by a 30 foot high concrete wall. from there you pass through the double checkpoint and walk 25 minutes through the recently destroyed Arab city towards downtown Bethlehem.
My birthright friends had made the plans; i really had no clue what the goal was, what we were aiming to see, where i was headed as i weaved through the razor-wire fences and massive metal turnstyles of security.
i was happy to be alone, finally, after 10 straight days of zero freedom, obligated everything, very little breathing room, virtually no solo experiences. it had gotten to the point that i simply could not enjoy a moment alone. the extremity of the group-oriented nature of the trip had affected so deeply my core that on the one occassion i walked off alone on the beach of the red sea to enjoy the sunset i only minutes later returned after having the feeling/thought: "i wonder what the others are doing...i desire to share this moment with them." it was not bad. i'm proud that i so smoothly adapted to the nature of the trip and so thoroughly integrated myself into the social and spiritual aspects of the community.
i was however, overcome by the feeling of travelling once i gave the drive the 3.5 shekels and found myself without a friend on the Arab bus that travels the six miles from the Damascus gate of the old city to the edge of Bethlehem, the city of Jesus's birth. my body breathed deeply. it soaked in the sensation. alone, in a foreign country, a foreign world, already 10 times more foreign than the israel i had left as Amit, my israeli friend with whom i am staying and from whom receiving wonderful Vespa rides, and i had passed into the Arab side of Jerusalem.
it had been nearly two years since i had had that feeling. my body, exhausted from the 10 consecutive nights of 2-5 hours of sleep, found great effect in the moment. my mind had not fully recovered from the lack of sleep, my heart and soul still struggling to understand the spiritual growth that it had undergone in the past week and a half. to answer the ultimate question of Birthright: i do not necessarily feel more Jewish. i do not know if i will consider myself more Jewish. i know, however, that i AM more Jewish, and, most importantly, i walk away with the knowledge that i am a Jew, that i share a history with these people and i share a cultural characteristic that i need not define. i know that being a Jew means something, and that i am many of those things.
but the more significant effect of the trip was this: a religion is a community. anywhere across the world you can look into another Jewish person's eyes and share a moment with them. candles bring two people together, a prayer, a handshake and a hug. how could it be so simple to unite two complete strangers? i know that there are other ways, i know that these lines of identity only seperate the globe; but i also know that there is value in attaching ourselves to these traditions, to this history, ancient as well as recent, if not for the sake of our ancestors than for the sake of us.
these feelings of being Jewish came to me in a number of ways and a number of places. each one could be written in an email twice this length. perhaps the opportunity to write about each experience will pass, but for now i must focus on my recent memory, on yesterday, Christmas day, 2006.
my birthright friends were already well on their way to downtown Bethlehem by the time i passed through the security checkpoint. i walked briskly past the taxicabs waiting to take people on the last leg of their pilgrimage to the holy site, a site i did not realize would be our goal. flying high on solitude i cruised through the Arab city, soaking in the differences-a world apart from the Israel i had been introduced to in the previous 10 days. this was not Israel. that was clear. tea shops and shawarma restaurants lined the streets. a boy in a Santa costume shouted out his version of Ho-Ho-Ho as our eyes met in an alley. a ritzy house had set up a gorgeous manger scene aside a Christmas tree and sang a familiar yuletide tune. an Arab city, a Christian feel, a Jewish occupation. where am i? i thought.
i walked and walked and walked. the views from the high rode on the hilled city showed me dry olive tree terraces in the distance, still inside the massive concrete wall. the city was in decent shaped considering that, as one israeli put it "we bombed the shit out of that place two years ago." there were destroyed structures. we saw one buiding that was nothing more than a shell, with mutiple stories, concrete floors and ceilings but no walls. you could tell people lived there because, instead of the wall, there was a clothesline strung airing laundry. it may snow tonight. this is a harsh reality.
as i came towards downtown Bethlehem the amount of tourists rose significantly. ironically, there were very few white tourists. the massive groups i saw were southeast asian, most likely Philipino, and Indian subcontinent (any thoughts which country...?). it was a mixed bag. i never wouldve expected it.
i glanced up a narrow cobblestone alleyway to the right and saw an opening, a gap, light, a people. i headed up it and found a plaza with a stage that was being deconstructed. the press was there, and hundreds of people gathered despite the feeling that the main event had ended. i called my friends and they oriented me. i walked towards the doorless wall as they had directed me. i came upon a group of hundreds gathered in a circle singing, chanting words i did not understand to a tune i did not recognize. i stopped to gaze but had to continue as i had seen my friend poking out of the doorless wall. we hugged and she said: "your jaw is dropped already...wait til we get inside."
the wall, constructed entirely out of massive stones, did have a door. it was about three and a half feet high and appeared to have been dug out after the construction of the church. i bowed into the building and it opened up into a massive church-room-hall(?). the floor was made up of old wooden planks. there was one section that was opened to reveal the original mosaic floor beneath, the original floor. above us rose massive wooden support beams, the sloped wooden ceilings 4 stories high had windows that let sharp rays of light shine on the lamps that dangled 30 feet below. the lamps had red Christmas ornaments on them...the very same you'd find on any americans christmas tree. the hall aimed towards a massive crucifix, jesus with his arms spread wide. people and candles were everywhere. there was an undeniable buzz in the building. "where am i?" i asked. "this is the church of nativity. this is where Jesus was born." it made perfect sense when she said it.
we found the rest of crew, already a few spots up from the end of the endless line of people waiting to enter into the grotto door. i took the chance to explore the venue while the others waited. still in awe i examined the ancient structure, the Christian paintings, the ornate gold plates, candle holders and grails.
back in line we passed through the first grotto hole and into a smaller room where people lit candles and priests struggled to maintain the sanity of the place. the line funnelled down a set of semi-circular stairs towards an even smaller cave door. the madness of the line increased when it became, not a line, but a group of people 10 bodies wide trying to force themselves into a 2 foot wide doorway. an Arab policewoman kept the peace, and people smiled and laughed as the energy of the group wavered between angry/uncomfortable and happy/excited. a woman shouted and the policewoman asked her to be quiet. we were, after all, headed into a very holy place, the place where Jesus was born. the church had been built upon it many centuries later. the crowd got rowdy and an Arab-looking man, wide and tall in the dead center of the semi-circle of stairs extended his hands at shoulder's hide, snapped them twice then turned his palms down in an attempt to calm the massive group. i liked his effort and we smiled at each other.through the grotto door was an entrance to another world. inside was calm, other than one priest desperately trying to keep the pilgrams from taking pictures of Jesus's actual physical birthspot and, of course, failing to do so. people lined up to get on their knees and pray at the spot. "are you gonna do that?" my friend asked, pointing at the people on thier knees, bowing. "i dont think i can" i said.
next to this cave lay a sunken cave a few feet below, clearly calmer, where several priests held a grail and chanted. i came closer but could not get down the stairs, as others stood there too. i ducked my head, careful not to get to close to the hundreds of burning candles to my right. i heard the prayers and they made sense. it wasnt spanish, but it wasnt too far from spanish. portuguese, italian, latin....? i watched the mild faced 40 year-old holy man lead the prayer. he wore glasses, was unremarkable in his features, but wore a robe of colors, perhaps yellow, instead of black. after the prayer he began to pass out communion wafers. he dipped them in what i thought at first must be holy water but in retrospect represented the blood of Christ. i knew i wanted one but i could not get close enough to him. after satisfying the urges of the people around him he looked up and i flashed my eyes at him. i craned my head even lower towards him, hovering over the people on the stairs below. he held the wafer up towards my mouth and i took it in. i was surprised by the taste of wine, as i had thought the clear liquid was water. the texture was soft and i let it dissolve slowly on my tongue. it was warm with energy.the men continued their prayers and heard them deeply. when it ended, the man in the yellow robe headed out of the sunken grotto and i motioned towards him in this spaceless space. i reached out to shake his hand, not knowing whether he'd even be allowed to shake mine. i thanked him and he met my eyes firmly and deeply. "mi primera vez" i said. he looked into me with a smile, proud of me.
i backed away from the scene, overcome with tears at this point. i knew that what i had just shared with the priest was no different than what i had found amongst my jewish bretheren during the previous two weeks. i knew that this was religion, the simplicity of the connection, the shared moment, the expression of God. i was grateful for where i was and what i had been through, overcome by the feelings of the circumstances that had led me to this trip, these places, these experiences, and this moment. my body began to shake and i thought i was going to faint. i doubled over, hands on my knees and let myself cry. my head began to spin. i found a spot on the stones in the corner of the cave beneath the paintings of Jesus. my body slouched onto itself and i put my head in my hands. i know that i was crying, but at this point that was the only understandable physical sensation. everything else that my body was feeling was completely foreign, previously unfelt. my body vibrated, pulsated. warmth. i no longer shook. i tried my best to let the moment flow, to not be afraid. i knew what i was going through, i knew the reasons for it, i knew where i was, what i had just experienced. i knew my physical state. i knew my mental state. i knew my emotional state. i understood how these entities combined into what i was feeling. but i also knew that there was a point in the feeling where these entities were not the cause. i knew what was really going on.

alone in the corner my face was caressed, as if to calm me. the hands were fuzzy, thousands of tiny feathers extending from the fingertips and palms. this warmth massaged every exposed peace of skin. i was told me that i had come upon something, a truth for me, the secular half and half, the two sides of my family, my self, my soul. it was proud of me.

this lasted for several minutes. i kept thinking it was about to end, hoping it would while at the same time fearing that it would. then it would come on stronger and i would be thankful.when it ended my body was incapable. i tried several times to stand. i still worried that i would pass out.

i walked slowly and carefully through the grotto and found more passageways. i was lost. my friends were nowhere in sight and i knew i was not ready to find them. i found places to sit and rest. around me religious people passed. these caves seemed endless.i went outside when i was ready and found two friends by the exit. they told me that the others were waiting outside. i did not speak. they asked if i was ok and i nodded. my body was shaking.
the next two hours were a blur. i found places to sit while the other bought snacks. i walked slowly and firmly through the medina we had come upon. i floated above everything. i could not speak or look my friends in the eye. i could walk and breath and make eye contact with the locals walking past me. i saw myself in a mirror at one point. i looked like myself.

There is a story that goes like this: there are four children that go to an orchard to play. they fall asleep under an apple tree. they each dream that they see God. the first one sees God and....
the second one sees God and....
the third one sees God and....
the fourth one sees God and....

Overlooking the Negev Desert.
I went to Ramallah on a whim. No real reason I went there, no real impetus other than that my mind had decided at some point during the night that i would wake up when Ameet does around noon and bum a ride with him back to Damascus Gate, the leaving point of the Arab buses to the West Bank.
it was New Year's Day, 2007. i had slept well that night after ringing in the New Year with some Birthright friends.
i hopped on the bus to Ramallah, finding myself the only white person as i had expected. the twenty minute ride included a quick passage through the security gates, into the walled zone, followed by an incredibly inconsistent unpaved road. it seemed as though they had left in unpaved so that no car could move quickly from the city to the security area and vice versa. a way of control, it seemed.
off the bus i wandered through the crowded city streets. i had been to what one could call Palestine once before: Bethlehem on Christmas Day. the difference between the two trips was instantly remarkable. for one, i was clearly the only non-Arab in the city. Bethlehem is a major point of interest on christmas, with pilgrims coming from across the globe to see Jesus's birthplace on his birthday. nobody had any reason to come to Ramallah on New Year's Day. neither did i.
secondly, this was a different city. i was in the downtown area and the bustle of the city was extreme. hundreds of people, mostly men, moved quickly through the crowded streets. people looked at me as i passed. children stared in wonderment, teenage boys pointed and laughed, girls giggled. i still had not seen another white person. i got tired of being the center of attention and so i ducked into what looked like a shopping mall. three of the five stores on the street level were closed. i looked up and realized that the malls in Ramallah are designed differently from those in the states. they are built upwards. five stores on a floor, 10 floors high. very little lighting. i saw a sign for a Checkers and wondered whether it was the same as we have in the US. it was. 25 shekel for burgers, fries and a cola--the menu written entirely in English.
back outside traffic was at a standstill. a police vehicle pointlessly sounded its siren. it seemed as though even if the cars blocking the police's way could have moved, they wouldnt have. this lack of space, this mess, this crowd, all seemed completely normal. nobody acted as though something were different today.
i think something was different that day. i passed through what felt like the dead center of town, a traffic circle where men stood around. they all looked at me as i passed. it was eerie. something felt not right. i started wondering whether i was really safe in Ramallah, whether it was ok for me to be there. above the traffic circle stood metal posts 30 feet high. attached to the posts was a banner with a larger than life photo of a young Saddam. i remembered that a friend had mentioned to me that there had been protests in Palestine, that the Arab community was reacting to his hanging. i was glad that it was today, two days after the hanging, and not yesterday or the day before. i immediately recognized how i would be perceived in the situation. i knew that any trouble i might find in that city would not be improved by the flashing of my American passport, that this was one situation where it would clearly worsen any situation. i wished that i had my hat, something to cover my hair, part of my face, lessen my height and overall make me less conspicuous. i did not have my hat. everyone saw my hair, my face, my height. i hunched my shoulders and tried not to look proud.

i started to walk away from the downtown. i was looking for a little breathing room, some place to sit and eat and not be seen. a few blocks away from the central traffic circle the city became calmer. there were fewer people and i felt the space. i passed a coffee shop and a store with rugs. i heard gunshots and it sounded like they were coming from the outskirts of town. i immediately turned around and headed back into town.
gunshots were not so uncommon to hear, even in Israel. the army trains and you hear them train. it was significantly more unsettling to hear this in Ramallah. i was still calm. i wasnt even sure that it was gunshots i had heard.
i kept walking until i found a nice falafel place. i sat in the back corner of the shop and ate slowly. a man asked me if i spoke English, where i was from, and whether i was married. i tried to avoid saying i was American. he was my age, married with 2 kids. i explained to him that in my world people get married at an older age. i asked him why he was in Ramallah and he said he works there. he works as Police he said, which translates to security. i asked him about how secure Ramallah is---safe/unsafe. yes, maybe he said. and for me, as a tourist i asked. yes, maybe he said. he cracked a smile and we both knew that i wasnt in the right place. i'm not sure if his answer would have been different were it not for the day, the circumstances, the governments.
i paid and left the falafel shop. i heard more gunshots and started to move towards the bus station. it was time for me to go, i had decided. i had never really felt unsafe in a foreign country before, at least not in this sense. i walked slowly and calmly. i was not worried. i decided i was still hungry and considered more food options. i continued heading in the general direction of the bus station. this led me back to the central traffic circle.
a gun fired again but this time much more loudly. i immediately saw the man who was firing the rounds. he stood in the center of the traffic circle and fired his shots firmly and angrily into the air. i stopped dead in my tracks. i watched him finish the cartridge and waited til he gave the pistol a few shotless clicks. the man did not see me. i looked around him and saw many men with many guns. how had i not noticed all these guns around me? a crowd had gathered right below Saddam's image. a protest, a rally, a riot? i had no idea. it was a gathering and that was enough for me.
i knew i was in the wrong place. aside from the safety issue, which i considered at this point to be relatively under control, i had no right to be there. my country had killed a leader, a man that these people respected and thought of in a positive light. these people live in a city surrounded by a 40 foot concrete wall. to leave the city they wait in narrow hallways and pass through heavy metal turnstyles. they are not free. Saddam Hussein is dead. i am white. i am jewish. i am America.
i reached into my pocket and pointlessly attempted to tuck my passport even deeper down. i started to walk towards the traffic circle, the one man's gun empty and no other men immediately planning to fire skyward. i had to pass through the circle. i felt exposed, no city walls to walk along, no sense of protection. i walked quickly and impossibly tried to be invisible. on the other side of the traffic circle i filed into the masses on the sidewalk. i was two blocks from the bus station and i felt safer already. i heard gunshots behind, a machine gun this time, and i instinctively shifted towards the buildings. i kept walking, my pace determined by the crowds around me.
on the bus i felt fine. i knew that i was never in any direct danger, but that i had tested my personal limits and found a line. i was proud of myself for trusting my instinct and getting out of there. i was happy to be heading back to Israel. in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem i felt at home.