Red Tape in the First World

I am back home finally. Though I haven’t been able to sit down and write about being home, I have been able to think about this. Now, finally, I have a second to write it down. I flew home through New Jersey, where I was confronted by the first instance of red tape in the first world. My flight, believe it or not, was actually about 45 minutes early to the airport. We international travelers slept our way through the time zones, ending up in Newark at about 3:30 AM. Unfortunately for the 200+ passengers (many with their families and the most babies I have ever seen on an airplane), the customs office in the airport did not open until after 4:00 AM. We all stood up and tried our best to postpone the inevitable impatience and irritation of being on the airplane even a second longer than absolutely necessary after our 13 hour flight. Actually, everyone was incredibly patient and civilized. Babies and children behaved like angels, and when I finally made it off the plane, we found the sleepy-eyed but kind customs officers ready and willing to see us to our next destination. 

Finally, I made it to Atlanta, where my dad picked me up and took me straight to Chic-Fil-A. Sad, right? Nah. It was the best four fried chicken tenders I have ever eaten. 

I spent a wonderful and relaxing week at home with loved ones before finally coming back up to Athens. The school year is underway and, once again, I cannot see how I will make it through the next 4 months. Somehow, though, it always happens. I trust I will check things off the list one at a time. 

What I think will set me apart from my colleagues and friends this particular semester is, that while I make my endless to-do lists and post-it note reminders in my planner, I will be constantly reminded of my experience in the hospitals in Israel this summer. I will continue to reflect on my bus trips to and from Tsvat, where I noted young soldiers with headphones on their ears and grimaces on their faces. I will hear the voice of the 5-year old Syrian boy who, perhaps because it is all he knew to do, asked me for money as I played with him in the hospital, despite receiving free healthcare for over a month. I will see the faces and smell the cigarette smoke of the young Syrian men being rushed out of the hospital in a military van, headed back to the border of Israel and their country. I will hear the clang of aluminum crutches as the young Israeli officer haphazardly tossed them into van behind the men, all of whom were missing limbs. 

As a 3rd year PhD student, I now face a world of red tape, deadlines, papers, philosophy, and football. This same student returned from 2 moths in a world of war, injury, social injustice, acute oppression and impossible ethical dilemmas. I hope this is not the last trip like this I will make, I’m sure there will be more in my future. I am humbled by the experience, which I am sure will stay with me for my whole life.

 

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