Israel

Wednesday Wanderlust

I only spent one week in Israel and Palestine (or West Bank, not trying to get political here) and it was definitely the best travel I have ever done. It was such a bumpy journey and I discovered 100 times more than what I expected.

Where are you going?

It was a while ago (January 2016) and  not at all planned. I was waiting to get my contract renew at work which was taking longer than expected. January season means holidays season and none of my friends was in Rome.

After a brief talk with the HR, I understood I would have one more week off and I decided to travel. I was endlessly bored (yeah it happens a lot to me) and wanted something a bit more adventurous than a city trip in Europe but not a too long flight and no visa requirement (time constraint).

Friday morning, I texted a friend of mine from high school in Chile who was, back then, working in Tel Aviv. He said I could stay and I booked my flight tickets. The next day I was in Israel.

Rome: Fiumicino Airport

The journey started very badly. Since I booked my flight the night before, I had done no research about Israel. I was flying with El Al and never again I would choose them. If only I had read a bit about getting to Israel I would have known about the security control you go through especially when you are travelling alone (i.e. they always suspect you to be an activist).

Short version: I was set apart and went through a 40 minutes interrogation. Plus, I had to show them my Facebook account and my mail box from work. I was not happy at all but I wanted to board the plane so I cooperated.

Afterward, the security walked me inside the plane (while everyone else was still sitting at the gate). Back in time, I was traumatized but it turned into a good story to tell.

When I arrived in Tel Aviv, they pasted a bar code with numbers on my passport and everything else went smoothly. Little did I know that the code will be used later on (when leaving the country) to allocate you to a specific security section of the airport. Yes, the number is your level of threat for the country and I scored pretty high.

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

Tel Aviv is a little city on the beach and it’s kind of a paradise bubble. I was not there long but from my experience, everyone was friendly and keen to party anytime. The food was amazing, people were surfing, and doing yoga on the beach at sunset. I loved it but left soon to visit Jerusalem.

The country is small so a one hour-long bus ride leads you to the next city. I stayed at the best hostel ever (i.e. Abraham Hostel) and met so many awesome people all traveling by themselves. The architecture and the history of Jerusalem is completely astonishing  and I totally recommend anyone to go there once in their life.

Couchsurfing in Palestine

I met Claire in Tel Aviv and she would become my new travel buddy. I told her I had arranged a couchsurfing in Ramallah and she decided to join. I don’t know if we were unorganized or just very stupids but we rent a car with an Israeli number to get there (= Hi everyone look at us!!).

Some information: Palestine is divided into three zones (in a nutshell):

  • Zone A: about 20% of the occupied territories under Palestinian control (in theory). Access to zone A is forbidden to Israeli citizens.
  • Zone B: about 28% of the occupied territories,under Israeli and Palestinian controls.
  • Zone C: covers most of Cisjordania and is under Israeli control.

Back to my story: Claire and I spent the day in the Avdat dessert and crossed the border around midnight. That was a bit scary because the driving style is different and you have military check points, massive walls with red sign ‘ZONE A, access forbidden’. Also, the 3G signal is blurred in zone A and I forgot that… No need to say that we were quickly lost in the night with no map and too much unwanted attention (i.e. only kids but they were determined to sell us stuffs and you don’t know what means ‘determination’ before meeting them).

What happened?

We drove back to Jerusalem, left the car and asked a taximan to drive us to our couchsurfing. Fortunately, we had the most patient host  that was not even mad at us. We woke up with a beautiful view over Ramallah and an amazing breakfast (Palestinian hospitality is not a joke!) and spent the day in the city with our new friends.

Conclusions

I could tell you way more about it: I met so many nice people from different walks of life, the vibes and the revolutionary spirit, but it’s so hard to communicate.

I had never visited a conflict area before and I was so unaware of the living conditions of the people. I’m so thankful I could experience this from so close, it really gave me some perspective on this life.

It was my first time in the Middle East and I was so excited to be in this part of the world. Back in time, I was working for an international organization and the Middle East is an hot spot when you are interested in a career in the development sector. Also, I love Mediterranean kitchen, I was learning Arabic and I’m interested in the geopolitics of the region. Hence I was super entertained and I hope to go back to Israel to learn more about the country and explore the Golan Heights!

Ps: My friend offered me to live with him in Tel Aviv at no cost since they had an extra room haha. I was so excited about Israel that I called the airline to cancel my flight. Fortunately, they were charging a massive fee which gave me time to collect my thoughts and remember I had a job in Rome and an apartment full of stuffs of mine. 

Ps II: I skipped many discoveries that contributed to make this trip unforgettable (and it includes a shooting, some tears gas and running away – It felt too much for a public blog called ‘Aurrou in Wonderland’).

Ps III: Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, I’m always glad to help and to share all of my stories!

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A Story from Cambodia

People from Wonderland

 

I raise up my voice – not so I can shout, but so those without a voice can be heard… we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.

Malala.

Happy Women’s day!

Not the 8th of March anymore but each day is worth to celebrate women’s rights and take actions, small or big, for gender equality. Even though I grew up in a country relatively privileged, there is always someone (e.g. strangers, fashion brands, or even relatives)  that will manage to remember me that gender equality is far from being achieved.

So I know it’s easy to come up with a quote about women’s empowerment on a blog but it is a cause that matters to me and in my daily life, I do my best to avoid comments or attitudes that reinforce stereotypes.

For the occasion, I really wanted to share a personal story that makes me smile each time I think of it. It happened in 2014 during a school break while in Cambodia.

So back to 2014

We were studying in Bangkok and had a couple of weeks off. So we decided to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia with a group of friends (guys, not sure if you are reading my blog but cheers to the #groupof10people).  

I forgot the details but somehow during the journey, our group got fragmented since we did not arrive all together in Siem Reap. Anyway, it was the morning and we were waiting at the bus station a couple of extra friends to meet us.

But guess what…

One of them forgot his bag inside the bus which disappeared immediately. Obviously, you are missing out all the fun if the bag does not contain anything important. Beside a camera, we had a missing passport with a precious student visa inside. Our friend Simone was very very (VERY) upset (Ciao Simone! Get back to me if needed :). And Elisa decided to take over the problem. She said ‘she would think about a solution to get the passport back’ and when she says she is going to do something she does.

Not so sure what happened next (side story: I had fever) but Elisa shared the phone number from our hostel with a couple of tuk-tuk drivers in the street in case ‘ anyone would have seen something or could help’.

Elisa ended up receiving a call from  ‘a friend who might help’ and they arranged a meeting the afternoon itself to discuss more.

And I really like the next memory I have from this: Elisa and Simone leaving the hostel in a tiny tuk-tuk that would bring them somewhere in the suburbs of Siem Reap.

The next thing I knew is they were back a couple of hours later with the passport, less cash, and a story about negotiating with a local mafia. I will always remember HOW BAD ASS my friends sounded hahaha.

Thank you Elisa! Forever in my mind!

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Chapter One – Down the Rabbit Hole : The regular path of adulthood part I

The Wonderland Stories

There was no riverbank and it was not a warm summer day. Nonetheless, I was bored and this stable world annoyed me. I’ve always been told that I should find a good job after college and make a career out of it. Back in time, I never challenged this idea and it sounded to be a pretty decent path of adulthood.

Right after graduation, I started an internship in an international organization and got hired afterward. It was really what I had always wanted. I lived in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Eventually I was not enjoying my life. Somehow I got bored after a couple of months and I started to listen to the whispers that were pushing me in another direction. Those that were telling me there was much more to live and that a more exciting path was waiting for me. In May 2016, I decided to go back to Wonderland. At the time, it was scary to leave everything behind for the world but I would to do it all over again. It has been an exciting adventure and when you are in your twenties, there are way more things to do to entertain yourself than being sit at a desk.

This is not a story about traveling or randomly quitting your job. This is about listening to yourself and realise at which step of your life you are, not matter what are the expectations surrounding you.

Have I gone mad someone asked? Well, I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers replied someone else. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

Aurrou In Wonderland

The Wonderland Stories

Transition from university to the workplace was not the easiest for me. After a while, I started to think back about Thailand where I spent a semester for school. I like to call Asia “Wonderland” because it was a period with little responsibilities, lot of time to travel, and I also met many interesting characters. I randomly decided to leave my job to fly back to Bangkok with a one way ticket. That’s all.

It was almost one year ago.

I got sucked again in this parallel world after falling down in a rabbit hole. My belief in a stable world called “The regular path of adulthood” started to be challenged. Since the first day we met, it had been telling me where I must go and who I must be. I’ve been shrunk, stretched, scratched, and stuffed into a teapot called “Society”. I’ve been accused of being Aurrou and of not being Aurrou.

But this is my dream and I will decide where it goes from here. Welcome to a world of my own, the world of Wonderland.

9 Warung & 9 Angels

Foodie

“You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.”

This restaurant is possibly my favorite place in Ubud. And the previous quote perfectly describes the concept of this vegetarian restaurant. The range of dishes is pretty good: fresh juice, ginger tea, rice, tempeh and tofu, various types of vegetable, and it includes dishes as fancy as potatoes and chocolate cake (yeah don’t take them for granted in Asia).

Until now nothing very original, right? Well, not only the food is delicious but the idea behind 9 Warung is awesome. There are neither waiters nor any other staffs. You are by yourself in the restaurant and a delicious buffet is waiting for you. You can pick the food you want and you keep track of the number of spoons you are taking from each plate (yes the number of spoons). For example, a spoon of vegetable is 3000 rupees (the equivalent of 0.21 EUR). A poster on the wall indicates the prices of the different dishes. No need to say that if you are on a budget, it’s an amazing occasion to avoid mie goreng and other cheap street food.

In addition, if you are really broken you can pick a voucher and eat up to 30,000 rupees (which means lot of food).  When you are done, you leave the money (or the voucher) on a jar placed on the table and then you clean your plates.

If you are willing to discover alternative ways of life or just to chill out surrounded by good vibes and good food, 9 Warung is the place to hang out at.

Update: There are a similar places in Melbourne and Sydney called “Lentils as anything”. Respectively located in Abbotsford and Newtown.

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A story from Nepal

People from Wonderland

I’m now settled down in Melbourne and this city is definitely awesome. But sometimes I miss Nepal and the energetic messiness of the country. I spent two months there to volunteer and trek in the Himalayas. Today, I want to share a story about Nuwakot district. This photo is an highlight from my time in Nepal.

We all met Aama and I think she touched everyone, without exception.  Aama means “grandmother” and she really is. As you know the violent earthquake that shaked the country in 2015 destroyed an enormous amount of houses and schools. Aama never had the chance to get an education and spontaneously decided to donate her land to an NGO rebuilding schools. She would always come to the school site to help and give us water. Dhanyabad to Aama who will largely contribute to the education of hundred children.

Do not hesitate to contact me if you need any information about volunteering in Nepal. I will be happy to share them with you and you might even meet Aama !