Monday, November 21, 2016

Autumn in New England


I haven't blogged since my post-BBYO Camp entry, because I've been around the world, and that same "world" seems to have changed in many ways. Again, because of the apolitical nature of my position, I can't comment on the last couple weeks in the form of political opinions, but I will say that the election has obviously tremendously affected me, and witnessing my country from afar has been both fascinating and incredibly disillusioning. First, let's rewind...

After the camp ended, I spent a day relaxing. I bought a winter coat (I didn't pack one to save space, and I have delayed buying one as long as possible), treated myself to a delicious vegan meal, and explored the Hungarian National Museum.

I prepared for my trip to the States, which would begin with my 3:30 AM shuttle to the airport for my 6:30 AM flight. At 1:00 AM of that same night/morning (they truly blurred together), the Cubs marched onto the field for Game 7. I obviously stayed up watching the game, and when my shuttle came in about the 7th inning, I expended all of my phone data as my dad FaceTimed me the game from an iPad carefully placed on our living room couch. Against protocol, I brought the Cubs through checkin and security, and watched them end 108 years of futility from the food court, about 10 minutes before my boarding time. I am a White Sox fan, but thinking of the euphoria my city and so many of my friends must have felt at that moment nearly brought me to tears. Mostly, the shock of the moment overcame me, and I couldn't believe the whole Hungarian airport wasn't going wild. Did they not realize what just happened?? Luckily, the 5 million person parade validated my impression of the magnitude of the event. I spent the next 10+ hours offline on my flight to Boston, where I spent the weekend with my Nachshon Project family. It was great seeing some of my mentors and many great friends. The program encourages its participants to pursue Jewish professional graduate programs and professions, and it was nice being with my peers to share our first few months in the "real world," and continue to imagine our next steps together. We all agreed that the weekend was "just what we needed." My favorite speaker from the weekend was Harvard Hillel's Orthodox Rabbi, who seems like an incredibly dynamic and exciting educator and leader. He is a YCT alum, comes from a family of rabbis and educators, and shared how he works to build rich spaces for Jewish exploration and discussion through Hillel's pluralistic model of engagement.

Following the seminar, I headed on a Greyhound bus for NYC. Chicago felt close, but not close enough, and I decided that a much easier trip to New York to try and see as many of my friends there as possible in less than 48 hours would be the better option. I masterfully crafted a day of meet ups and visits, managing to see a handful of WashU friends, camp friends, and others too. I still can't believe how many people I was able to see in basically one full day in New York. It felt very grounding to see so many people whom I love and whom I consider major parts of my life and support system. At the same time, NYC does not feel quite like home, and sleeping in 5 beds in under 2 weeks made me feel slightly rootless. Ultimately, the visit was really incredible and I'm very grateful for all the people I saw.

I promptly headed back to Boston on the morning of Election Day, very eager for the meshugas of the election season to conclude (remember when that kind of thinking was a thing?). Anyway, I arrived and headed to meet my WashU friend Emily at her office, and she showed me around and introduced me to her coworkers. It was a really nice time, and I then headed out to the Target across the street. I wanted to buy 3 of everything, but I settled on 2 tubes of toothpaste, a pack of 12 Clif bars, and a sweater. I then felt compelled to eat at Chipotle, which I honestly eat maybe 2x a year at home, but it seemed like a quintessential "American" (quotations to connote some sort of irony) meal. Our evening plans consisted of dinner and watching the election. Let's just say Target might have been my  final moment of momentum and American enchantment of my visit.

The next day, my flight was not until the evening, and I planned on doing some more low-key Boston touring. Instead, I opted for a quieter day, hanging out in Brookline at a bookstore and meeting my high school friend Noah for a reflective walk and catchup.

I'll conclude this post by acknowledging the strange reverse culture shock I felt being in the US. In Hungary, I acknowledge that I have a habit of eavesdropping on conversations to listen for the occasional (North American) English or Hebrew. In America, I instinctively did the same, only to remember that the same weird tingle of connection I feel when I hear English  does not quite exist in America. Also, unlike my sister who lives in Vietnam and tells me that she feels like an ethnic outsider there, my community in America comes from the same region of the world where I currently reside. And even though Budapest very much carries the ambiance of a traditional European city, it is not worlds away from Boston's more vintage (RE: European) ambiance. This hit me as I watched the old fashioned Boston tram pull up to its station with the backdrop of autumn leaves and quaint buildings. I had a strange moment realizing that I just as easily could have been back in Europe at that moment, and how my experience that feels so distant (and is geographically quite distant) sometimes feels strangely close as well.

I headed back to Budapest for Shabbat and Sunday BBYO (it was a quiet weekend of jet lagged reading and sleeping), and then was off to Berlin (see next post!).

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