2011
06.01

 SYNOPSIS:  Looking back at a 10-year mission.  Accomplished?

Melancholy is taking over as there are no two ways about it any longer — this trip is over.  This time I can’t say goodbye to Israel and go to another country; this time it’s for real:  I have to go back home.

Not that I don’t like home.  Not that I don’t like my job.  Not that I have not missed my son or partner in life, the lake, or my cats.  But traveling is something that simply takes me over.  I don’t want it to end.  The Germans have a great word for it:  WanderlustWandern is actually hiking or trekking and Lust is the fun of it and the joy; not quite what ‘lust’ is in English.   But I like that the English word of wandering implies a bit of aimlessness.  As structured as traveling has to be if you want to accomplish anything, traveling is so full of unexpected twists and turns and encounters that just can’t be planned; all of which ultimately become part of the path leading to the goal.

But what was that goal?  I wanted to accomplish something even though I did not quite know what.  In general terms, I wanted to gain more understanding of the Middle East since my schooling was in Western and in Asian cultures with a blank spot right where I needed some background.  It has been almost ten years since I started this mission: Trying to understand the Middle East, its art, architecture, culture, and to gain an insight into the conflict between the Middle East and the West, which for better or worse seems to become the central issue of this century.  I knew I could gain this insight from books and the news.  But I wanted to gain it through contacts and first hand experiences.

In 2002 I went to Jordan, in 2007 to Pakistan, in 2010 to Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, and in 2011 to Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Israel.  I never made it to Afghanistan, but have not given up on it.  I have not yet gotten to the “Stan” countries of the former Soviet Union, but that also may come about in good time.  But with the countries I did reach, I got a good sampling of the variety of the Middle East or the so-called Muslim world.  I was glad that I was able to see some of the non-Arab countries of that Muslim world:  Turkey and Iran.  I did get a good sense of the differences between these countries which from our perspective are often lumped together as if they are a uniform block.

I made friends from all strata of society; I heard stories, and I saw historical sites.  I talked to people and saw the discrepancies between political or religious theory and the reality on the street.  I have food for thought more than I have time to process!  And I know that now an intense time of book learning and research has to follow.  Did I accomplish my mission?  Yes and no.  I made a significant start but I realize how hopelessly huge this topic is.  And I have a new goal:  Get a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies.  Perhaps, when I am 60 I will graduate?!

I am eternally grateful to my son Martin and my partner David for letting me go without worries.   I am grateful to work at an institution, Washtenaw Community College that allowed the switch of terms last year and granted a sabbatical leave for this mission this year.  I am grateful to Capital One for extending my credit limit so I could pay all my bills along the way.  And I am looking forward to share my experiences through a talk and an exhibition at WCC in November.  Stay tuned for dates and times!

Last, but not least, a big THANKS goes to all of you wonderful readers, friends, family, colleagues, and students, known and unknown, who have kept me on my toes writing and posting.  I could not have done this without you!  Thank you all.

And until I travel again, I once again will end this blog with a prayer of gratitude the same way I have ended every night on this 121 day long journey:

Thanks, Ganesh, for removing all obstacles today.

Thanks, St. Christopher, for holding your hand over me.

Thanks, Baishayaguru, for keeping me well.

Thanks, Mary Magdalene, for keeping me company. *

THE END.

* In Egypt that would have been Maat, in Turkey that was Mary Nisbet, and in Iraq, I had more company than I knew what to do with. 🙂

9 comments so far

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  1. Appreciation to my father who informed me concerning this blog, this weblog is in fact awesome.

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  2. It’s going to be finish of mine day, except before end I am reading this enormous piece of writing to increase my knowledge.

  3. Hi Elizabeth,

    Is your journey truly over? If you would like to relive some parts of your journey, outside of the day # format then please do get in touch – Adam.Spawton-Rice@holidays.easyjet.com

    I write and edit content for the easyJet Holidays travel blog in the UK, and would love to feature you as a guest blogger. After spending half an hour scouring your blog for an e-mail I decided to leave a comment instead to this tune.

    I am particularly interested in getting a series of guest posts from a selection of different Egypt-bound/experienced travellers.

    Please do get in touch either way, I’ll fill you in on the bigger picture if/when we speak via e-mail.

    All the best,

    Adam

  4. Welcome home. I, too, am sad your journey is over as I have so treasured your blogs. I read each with awe and envy of your experiences. Thank you so much for taking the time to share with all of us.

    I am awaiting #118. Wouldn’t you know it, I have personal interest in Nablus and sometime will share that with you. Thanks again for all the enlightenment. Joan

  5. Welcome home: I’ll be delighted to read up on your travels now that I have just come back down to earth after the birth of Rose, my fourth grandchild. Mashallah. No, of course it’s not the end. Just another beginning. The ‘stans will be there for us in a couple of years and we will have the Central Asian adventure of a lifetime. I have got to get myself together and construct the skeleton of my India and Pakistan trip for later this year. Now, how about a blog? Can grandma do it? It wouldn’t be up to your standards of course but it might help to prevent a few of your readers from getting withdrawal symptoms. I’M SAYING IT HERE SO THAT I WILL HAVE TO DO IT. Much love, Nicola

  6. What!? Traipsing all over the Middle East — and no thanks to Allah???

  7. Elisabeth
    I have rushed many days to catch up on your wanderlust, enjoying each line and worrying when I didn’t see a new blog…I admit that studies do keep me hoping and I forgot but not for long. I have enjoyed sharing your web site with fellow students in my social work classes they have started reading too. My goodness you have opened my eyes to the world and cultures in class and on your travels.
    I can feel your sadness and I hope you stay on opening the eyes of the students at WCC as people don’t really know the world is a discovery of people, cultures and art to name a few..
    I was afraid so many times during your travels for you. I know you are smart brave and beautiful person and I have not traveled as you have. I too have Thanked Ganesh and St. Christopher for your safety. Soon you will be adjusted to the jet lag and back into the swing of things…
    I cannot wait to hear everything…My son is in Afghanistan arriving today in fact for 60 days. I cant wait till he gets home safely.
    Welcome home & rest up hope to see you soon!
    Robin Franco

  8. You have kept Ganesh, St. Christopher, Baishayaguru, Mary Magdalene and a host of angels very busy keeping watch over you. Now it is time to bask in the multitude of memories you carry in your heart and come safely home.

  9. Elisabeth,
    I’m sad reading your last entry today. Surprisingly, your experiences have become a way of life for me. I enjoy logging on in the early morning with a cup of coffee to read your latest post, or taking a break in the afternoon at work and see who’s crossed your path that day. I asked you once how you absorb it all, with each day so different than the last. I see now how it quickly becomes a way of life and that the mundane, everyday routine of an educator will be an adjustment for you and the rest of us who have gotten used to the adventure. Welcome home.
    –Janet