Monday, May 28, 2012

On The End

It's time. I leave in about 30 hours, my apartment is cleaned, gutted, painted, and spotless. My life is now in two large bags, one carry-on, and one backpack, and I'm ready in every sense of the word to come home.

Here's some pictures from my last adventure this past weekend with Ari, Jake, Hannah, and Raquel to Yehudia Nature Reserve, which was an incredible, incredible place. I spent two days jumping off cliffs into water, stargazing, hanging out by a bonfire, playing Mao into the wee hours of the night in a hazy tent, and not having a worry in the world. 

Having fun with lighting
Jake's choice word
And again
Where that guy was sitting is where Raquel and I leaped from (about 50ft)
These climbers set up a slackline over the pool at Zavitan Falls
So that's pretty much it. I'd like to thank my parents for helping me come to Israel and being incredibly supportive, and my grandmother and uncle and aunt for helping to finance this most wonderful experience. I'd like to shoutout to the staff on Aardvark for catering to many of my peculiarities, and of course to all my wonderful, wonderful friends I've made while being here. I think I've grown in more ways than I could have ever predicted.

If any potential gap year kids are reading this, first off, do Aardvark. It's so, so much better than the alternative(s). Secondly, travel every minute you have off. Finally, stay off the radar of the staff (go to your volunteering and don't be "that kid"), and you can get away with anything. If you have any questions, send me an email at

Thank you all for reading, it's been a pleasure. 

Farewell Spaceman - Blockhead

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Adventures, Penultimate

So the year is winding down, pretty rapidly in fact, to many mixed feelings. As much as I have enjoyed my time here, I am ready, very ready to come home and see my friends and my dog and my car and my family, and be reimmersed in my culture (even though I might not fully connect or agree with it). That being said, I'd like to think I'm making the most of the time I have left.

This week, Ari, Jake, and I had quite an adventure. We left Aardvark without quite letting them know on Wednesday afternoon to set out for Midreshet Ben Gurion, literally Ben Gurion College. Now this "place" is a very interesting one, and is set in the middle of the Negev next to Kibbutz Sde Boqer, and some amazing scenery, hiking trails, and singletrack mountain biking (had my bike not been stolen...). Anyways, we get to Midreshet at around 5 with fully loaded packs to support a three day backpacking trip, and as we get off the bus, we notice that we are in the middle of a pretty significant sand storm. We had a couple options: rough it in the sandstorm and camp out, or call a "trail angel" of the Israel National Trail, basically someone who would let us spend the night. So we flipped a coin and the interior option won out, and we called Tamir who let us stay at his place.
The Negev near Midreshet Ben Gurion
The Midreshet is basically a giant graduate school isolated in the middle of the desert, and they have some of the best research facilities in all of Israel. It is, in essence, a bubble of academia set in a most chilled environment, basically my dream home. Tamir was working as a researcher on remote sensory applications, and his team was working with satellites to do one thing or another. He was (is?) smart, really smart, and the conversation that night over tea was great. He's travelled the world (like nearly every Israeli), spent time living in Ethiopia, India, England, all over really. And we slept in an actual bed which was nice.

We woke up at 6 the next morning to start our hike for the day. We left Tamir's place, caught a bus to the ancient ruins of Avdat, and hiked into the desert. The hike started out pretty mediocre, just another desert hike, until we hit Ziv Canyon, which was, for lack of more eloquent rhetoric, really cool. We followed this canyon for maybe 5 kilometers northwards until we came to what is called Ein Akev (Akev Spring). This watering hole is literally an oasis in the middle of the desert. It's not too big, maybe 20ft. by 10ft. and around 20 feet deep, but after spending 4 hours hiking in 105 degree heat, it was just about the best thing ever. The spring had cliffs around it that we spend a couple hours climbing and jumping and doing flips and deep*-water soloing. It was maaaagniv (great).
Loungin' at Ein Akev
Good, safe fun
Later that day, we caught a bus to Beersheba, and then to Gedera where we met up with our madrich / friend Ori, who drove us to Modiin to pick up his other friend, Ido, and from there to the Dead Sea where we camped out for the evening. In the morning, we set off for our next hike: Nahal Dragot.
Camping at the Dead Sea, Yaniv, and Goldstar: Welcome to Israel
Nahal Dragot has to be the coolest day-hike I've done in Israel. The hike starts on the top of the desert plateau and really steeply descends into the massive canyon that is Dragot. This canyon has been carved out by thousands of years of flash floods, and at it's highest, is something akin to 500 feet on both sides.
Nahal Dragot
The hike truly started as we weaved through the canyon carved out by these floods, which made the rocks incredibly smooth and curved so perfectly that you could, multiple time throughout the hike, slide down the rocks as if it were in a playground. The trail, at times, would become so narrow you'd have to squeeze through, climb underneath giant boulders, and, more often, over them. And soon enough, we came to the first pool, completely blocking the path. The pools were stagnant, so the water was green and smelly, pretty disgusting, but once I got soaked in the first pool, I gave up caring and gleefully submerged myself in many-a-stagnant-pool.
Nothing beats a descent into green water
The hike continued like this for about four hours: navigating through this incredibly narrow canyon, using a rope to rappel distances up to 40ft, and figuring how to get the least wet through the pools. I remember one point on the hike there was a naturally carved out slide that went down for maybe 30 feet and dropped off into a deep pool. It was so fun that I climbed out using the rope just to slide again.
Rappelling in Hebrew is called snapelling
Ori, the best Madrich ever
I really enjoyed getting away these last few days. It really took my mind off the whole transition process, and as much as I want nothing more than to be home, I can't seem to escape the whole "leaving" thing. It's all everyone talks about, and it's, quite frankly, getting on my nerves a bit. I'm just looking for a way now to bide my time...11 more days, and then...bliss.
Farewell, Desert
Helicopter - Deerhunter

Monday, May 7, 2012

On Pictures, Recent, Random

Bahai Gardens
Bedouin Shepherdess in JNF forest in Mitzpe Ramon (ICH! ICH!) 
Climbing Shen's Tooth in the largest crater in the world
On top
Enter the Negev
Pink sand
"The Carpentry" - a geological phenomenon resulting in geometric rocks
Solo camp in Jerusalem hills
Sunset over Ein Kerem
24 hours alone...bliss
My bedroom (or part of it)