The Middle East is an intimidating region of the world, and I am going there to perform a few intimidating tasks*. I will be accompanied by several people whom I’ve decided, upon thorough Internet-researching (stalking.), also really intimidate me. Needless to say, the preparation for this trip has been somewhat intimidating itself, and at this point it has mostly devolved into scenes of me staring at my closet for fifteen minutes before I realize that I went in my room to start packing and I should probably do that, despite the fact that I have not yet checked the weather forecast for Israel or done laundry in about a month.
One of the reasons I’m so nervous is that I’ve never been to the Middle East before — I never seriously considered the possibility that I would ever make it there at any point in my life, let alone this month — and I want to make sure I do it right. I don’t want to get lost, I don’t want to offend anyone, I don’t want to take awful pictures. I want to find something important to write about. I figure there are a few things that I really need to research and prepare for before I leave, and if I can at least sort of semi-master those things, I will have a better chance of not ruining everything.
1. Clothing. So as of five minutes ago I am now up to date on the weather forecast, and it is going to be hot. Super hot. Initial thought process: I can finally debut my new bathing suit to the world! Reality: there will be visits to religious sites, requiring shoulders and knees and chests to be covered. Not to mention more conservative areas of the country that adhere to strict dress codes. Only solution I have been able to come up with thus far: culturally appropriate clothing necessitates higher quantities of deodorant. Things are going to get really sweaty. This isn’t going to smell nice.
(Intimidating book that I am currently reading in preparation. Apparently this book was one of the last good things Friedman wrote before becoming horrible?)
2. History. The other night I had a dream that immediately upon stepping off the plane in Israel, I was handed a multiple choice history test and was expected to complete this test within one hour or else I would be denied access to the country. Needless to say, I’m a bit on edge. I have been reading about Israel almost obsessively. I have considered drafting study guides.
3. Documentation. I am not a photographer. Only about two of every thirty pictures I take in any given situation will be semi-decent. I’m fine with this, as I prefer writing as a means of documenting my experiences, but I’ve also learned that writing on the Internet is more valuable when it comes with pictures, so I am actually going to make an effort this time. I bought myself a new camera, one that actually requires different lenses. I bought the wrong lens. Since returning that lens and purchasing the correct lens, I have mostly been taking out of focus pictures of my houseplants and teaching myself basic techniques with YouTube videos while drinking wine.
(At least I’m not as bad as this woman was, remember?)
4. Contemporary Culture/Customs. I think that, in general, I am a fairly inoffensive person. I’m not loud, I’m not overtly opinionated, I’m not anything intimidating to look at. But right now, I am terrified of saying, wearing, doing, or even just thinking the wrong thing when I’m over there. I want to make a good impression. I want to show respect, to have them know that I am making an effort, to show them that I am ridiculously excited and grateful to have a chance to get over there… and mostly, when it comes down to it, I just really want them to like me.
*I’ll be writing about my experiences in Israel for Vagabundo Magazine as well as Brendan’s Adventures, so make sure to stalk me in those places. I’ll also be posting on my own Twitter & Facebook accounts, and probably attempting to take pictures on my Instagram account (username: jackie_travels). Are we all as scared as I am?
*this sounds cryptic but I promise it’s legit.