Page 29 - Foxtalk Winter 2012

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29
Winter 2012
round Florence, including the Duomo, Arno River and Ponte Vecchio. Colleen Kopchik was in awe of the ancient sites.
Trip to Middle East breaks stereo-
types, creates lasting memories
T
hree years ago when I first got my passport, I never
would have expected to flip through and see the
beautiful, somewhat strange looking symbols of the
Arabic and Hebrew language. But in March 2011, Marist
gave me the opportunity to have the permanent marks of
Israel and Jordan in my passport along with the permanent
memories I will forever take with me.
Many people might think you are crazy for venturing to the
Middle East. As one sales clerk so very bluntly put it to me
when I told him where I was going for Spring Break, asking to
be dropped in the middle of a “war zone” was simply “irratio-
nal.” I didn’t see it that way. It was a time to further explore
my faith and who I chose to be as I grow older.
Landing in Israel is surreal. The stunning green scenery can
make you understand why it is that so many people fight over
control of this sacred land. Even if you don’t believe in God,
looking around, it is impossible not to think that the land
of Israel is a special place; blessed, if you will. It is peaceful,
serene and full of intricate architecture that is older than your
family tree can span.
But the beauty of the land is outlined with the harsh mark-
ings of turmoil. It is a place where loaded machine guns are
worn on display like the latest designer handbag. It is this out-
line of the land that we see as outsiders; the bad, the unruly—
not all the beauty that sits inside waiting to be explored.
Venturing into Jordan was easily the most frightening few
moments of my life. I stood in a room, being questioned by
a border crossing guard who spoke maybe three words of
English, and I only one word of Arabic. He held my visa in his
hand, while we were watched closely by men carrying some
large guns. For just a few brief moments I, too, thought, “This
is completely irrational.”
My moment of fright was quickly overcome, as Jordan easily
became one of my favorite places on Earth. As we walked the
streets, people ran after us, welcoming us to their country.
We hiked the ancient ruins of Petra, a place that in my opin-
ion deserves to be the eighth wonder of the ancient world. We
climbed into tombs where centuries ago, where kings may have
laid, and after what felt like miles of walking rode camels back
to the starting point, gasping at Petra’s wonder as we passed it
for the second time.
Old Jerusalem made me feel as if I had gone back in time.
The old stone walls that weave back and forth. The best little
shops always tucked in so tight you nearly miss them. They
said it looks, sounds and smells the same today as it did 2,000
years ago, and I believe them. New Jerusalem is unexpected.
The modern malls with Nike and Puma stores don’t seem to fit
in with the old exterior. And once again you see what once was
and what is now; the outline that defines the region.
Time and time again, stereotypes of the Middle East were
broken in only my short time spent there. It is a place where
people just like you and me live their lives. It is a place full
of unanticipated beauty; a place my words cannot accurately
describe or give justice to. It is a place that has changed my life
forever.
BY COLLEEN KOPCHIK, ’12