Thursday, July 20, 2006

Starting a Blog

I'd been wanting to start a blog for a while and never got around to it. Now it seems like a good forum to let you know not only what I am up to, but that I am safe. So here goes nothing.
I have been serving here in Jerusalem, for almost a year and a half. The city is a beautiful place to visit and a stressful place to live. In my job as a vice consul, I basically tell applicants for visas to visit the U.S. whether or not they can go. It is a stressful job in a place where you live and breathe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict 24/7, mainly because it highlights the disparities between the populations. Quite simply, most Israelis qualify for visas and most Palestinians don't. It isn't fair, but it is life.
Lately, it has been more stressful as we all watch the news. The events of the past week on the Lebanon border and the past month in Gaza has put everyone just a little more on edge. Don't get me wrong, I don't feel any more in danger here in Jerusalem now than I did two months ago. There are neither clouds nor war planes in the skies over Jerusalem. But I did go to Gaza yesterday to help evacuate Americans who were vacationing there (not sure of the wisdom of choosing the hot garden spot of Gaza for your vacation, especially since we have been saying for a year and a half not to go there at all, but different strokes I guess). It was quiet there, no gunfire or bombs exploding and only the occassional drone overhead, but you could see how the fighting had worn on the faces of the people we got out. And we only got out a drop in the bucket compared with the number of people who live there. Gaza is the most populated place per cubic meter on the planet.
At some point I will have to go back and relive some of the cool things I have gotten to do since I came here, like going to Rome, Istanbul and Petra. I have seen Caesaria, the Galilee and the Dead Sea. I have met the Secretary of State and the First Lady (I have pics to prove it!). I have had the highs of passing my PhD exams (did you know that ABD, short for All But Dissertation, also means slave in Arabic?) and the lows of having my apartment here robbed and sitting by my grandmother's hospital bed for 3 weeks fearing that the pneumonia she got after lung cancer sugery would be the thing that took her from me after lung cancer itself could not (thankfully, it didn't). It has been an interesting ride so far...I should have written about it sooner.

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