It isn’t the physical goodbye hug that’s difficult. It isn’t the sending off. It’s the acknowledgement that a chapter ended, an event is over, an experience cannot be exactly replicated. Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when you enjoy the people and the place.
Saying goodbye is never fun. So what better way to do that than over food. Over surprisingly good burgers at Black Bar ‘n’ Burger, my program had its last meeting together. The burger was large but still cooked perfectly medium. The meat was good, but sauces made the difference. There was a garlic aioli that went perfectly with the burger and actual barbecue sauce(!!). I know this is incredibly American, but I love barbecue sauce and unfortunately have not been able to find it in this country. There it was, just sitting on the table. The fries were crispy with a soft middle, just the way they should be.
It was incredible to look around the tables and see everyone together. A group of initial strangers came out sharing a meal, talking about the meal, passing fries and sauces, discussing favorite and funny memories, sitting down like a group of old friends. If only for these twos months, that’s still quite an accomplishment. We had our own thoughts, opinions, internships, and experiences but we came together as a group. Together, with the last meal we acknowledged the end.
These past two months were amazing. I learned more about myself than I expected and I know I’ve grown as an individual. I joined a group with people (mostly younger than me) and learned oft-forgotten lessons from them too, like don’t forget to have fun. I saw several different places in Israel, witnessed the multi-cultural Israeli society, and experienced a country in deep-rooted conflict.
These past two months were not without challenges: meeting 54 strangers, interacting with teenagers at work without a common language, figuring out a different society and culture, experiencing rocket sirens, watching a society cope with loss. As I recently joked, living here was a struggle. Of course there was a lot of fun, but living in Israel, and in Jerusalem especially, can be a struggle–to learn, grow, and think. It’s a place to experience.