Monday February 18, 2019
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ALMOST THIRTY: Too Old or not Young Enough?

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By Rebecca McCourtie

EXCITEMENT, that’s what I felt when I got in a taxi at the train station and told the driver to take me to my next volunteer gig at a hostel in central Tel Aviv.

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So far I had been a chef at a chateau, a goat milker, a cheese maker, a gardener, a beekeeper, a honey extractor and an English teacher. After leaving Sweden I had been making my way around Europe volunteering. Essentially the deal was, I worked five hours a day, five days a week and got free board in return. It had worked an absolute treat to date! Well… mostly a treat, except for the goat farm stint when I had to leave early because I had a severe allergic reaction to the goat hair. Aside from my sinuses almost exploding out of my nostrils, I had had nothing but positive experiences and it was a no-brainer for me to T-something up in Israel doing the same sort of thing. Thinking hostel work might be fun and something different, I organised a three-week stint at a hostel in central Tel Aviv.

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Like I was saying, excitement filled my body as I hung my head out the window of the taxi and allowed my lungs to breathe in the warm muggy air and my eyes to absorb the bright lights that illuminated the skyscrapers in the dark of the night. When the driver pulled up outside the hostel, I paid, got out and made my way up the four flights of stairs with my heavy bags. My excitement disappeared when I walked into a room full of eighteen year olds. ‘SH*T!’ Eighteen year olds who were all drinking, smoking, running around and generally acting like eighteen year olds.

I was greeted by the VERY young manager on the night shift. ‘Hey, who are you?… Rebecca who?’ This wasn’t a good start! I had organised with the boss to volunteer, but the manager hadn’t been filled-in and wasn’t expecting me. After a few brief introductions, explanations and pleasantries, I was taken to ‘the bag rack’ outside. ‘Just leave your bags here.’ I reluctantly put my downs in the open area, cautiously aware of the fact that anyone of the heavily intoxicated, financially questionable teenagers could steal from me.

‘So if my bags go here, where will I sleep? My bags won’t stay out here the entire time will they?’

The young man looked at me perplexed, as though he couldn’t understand why I was nervous about my personal belongings being stored on an oversized shoe rack out on a terrace with zero security. He may not have had anything of great value in his luggage, but I had my laptop, jewelry and basically my entire life in those two bags. The last thing I wanted was to leave everything unattended in amongst barely legal drunkards.

Yeah, your bags will stay here the whole time because the room is small. It’s OK, I think they will be OK.’

The child-manager’s tepid reassurance towards the safety of my belongings was not satisfactory, nor was the tiny room with ONE double bed that I was expected to share with all the other volunteers.

‘I am not sleeping here and sharing a bed with strangers.’

Again, he looked at me perplexed as to why I would have a problem with one bed and four people!

I’m almost thirty, I’m too old for this sh*t. I need my OWN bed!’

Evidently my message wasn’t getting through.

‘That’s not an excuse, thirty is NOT old’ said the 19-year-old child running the shop. I tried to accept the words of the barely-legal baby telling me I wasn’t old. I knew I wasn’t old, but I also knew I wasn’t young enough to be playing ‘stacks’ in a bed with three male strangers a decade younger than myself.

I exhaled: ‘OK fine. Not only am I not young enough for this sh*t, I DON’T want to share a bed with three strangers.’

He looked back at me, not willing to lose the battle: ‘you can sleep outside on the terrace if you want. There are chairs out there. People sleep on them all the time. You’ll be next to your luggage that way.’ The more the young man tried to convince me to stay, the more horrified I was becoming with the arrangements.

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‘Sorry mate, call me a cab. I’m going to another hotel. This isn’t going to work!’Reluctantly, the young man called me a cab and asked me one more time why I was leaving.

‘Well, outside of the fact that I am not comfortable top’n’tailng with three to four strangers, I am also not OK leaving my bags unattended and out in the open. Before you say ANYTHING else, even if I WAS comfortable being in close proximity to you under a bed-sheet, its too freaking hot this country to snuggle! See you later!’

With that I grabbed my bags and fanged it down the stairs and out onto the street. What a disaster that had been! It wasn’t a good start, but like everything in life you just have to deal with it! When life knocks you down, you gotta get back-up.

I managed to book myself another hotel using the wifi on my phone during my brief ‘tour’ of the hostel from adolescent-hell. It wasn’t glamorous, but it would do for three nights while I sorted out what the hell I was going to do with myself! I was definitely not young enough to handle that situation, but old enough to know that I didn’t have to do anything that I didn’t want to do!

Indicators that you’re probably too old to be backpacking (but screw it, you should do it anyway!)

When you took your first trip overseas:

  1. Technology wasn’t ‘Apple’, it was the apple shaped pocket at the front of your backpack that could store your portable CD player and allow your headphones to feed through to the outside.
  2. Mobile phones weren’t smart, but looking under the payphone and getting the box’s number, emailing that number to your Mum, T-ing up a time and getting her to use a phone-card to call you on said payphone WAS!
  3. MacDonald’s was a place to buy food and use the toilet, not tap into free wifi.
  4. A couple of steps before phone cameras, your camera took film… digital what now?

On this trip:

  1. Shared dorms with bunk beds are a NO, given that the likelihood of you bouncing instead of breaking is slim to none.
  2. The room isn’t the cheapest room unless it has wifi, in fact it isn’t even a room without wifi, it’s a shanty!
  3. Breakfast inclusive rooms are a MUST! Your body can’t function without breakfast… including coffee… did I say coffee already?
  4. The single most horrifying accommodation option is SHARED BATHROOM!

 

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Claiming Bias, U.S.A. And Israel Pull Out Of UNESCO

The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.

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The logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is seen druing a conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Nov. 4, 2017. VOA

The United States and Israel officially quit of the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency at the stroke of midnight, the culmination of a process triggered more than a year ago amid concerns that the organization fosters anti-Israel bias.

The withdrawal is mainly procedural yet serves a new blow to UNESCO, co-founded by the U.S. after World War II to foster peace.

The Trump administration filed its notice to withdraw in October 2017 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed suit.

The Paris-based organization has been denounced by its critics as a crucible for anti-Israel bias: blasted for criticizing Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, naming ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites and granting full membership to Palestine in 2011.

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UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Image Source: www.mid-day.com

The U.S. has demanded “fundamental reform” in the agency that is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions. UNESCO also works to improve education for girls, promote understanding of the Holocaust’s horrors, and to defend media freedom.

The withdrawals will not greatly impact UNESCO financially, since it has been dealing with a funding slash ever since 2011 when both Israel and the U.S. stopped paying dues after Palestine was voted in as a member state. Since then officials estimate that the U.S. — which accounted for around 22 percent of the total budget — has accrued $600 million in unpaid dues, which was one of the reasons for President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw. Israel owes an estimated $10 million.

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay took up her post just after Trump announced the pullout. Azoulay, who has Jewish and Moroccan heritage, has presided over the launch of a Holocaust education website and the U.N.’s first educational guidelines on fighting anti-Semitism — initiatives that might be seen as responding to U.S. and Israeli concerns.

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Migrants wait in line for food at a camp housing hundreds of people who arrived at the U.S. border from Central America with the intention of applying for asylum in the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 12, 2018. VOA

Officials say that many of the reasons the U.S. cited for withdrawal do not apply anymore, noting that since then, all 12 texts on the Middle East passed at UNESCO have been consensual among Israel and Arab member states.

In April of this year, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO said the mood was “like a wedding” after member nations signed off on a rare compromise resolution on “Occupied Palestine,” and UNESCO diplomats hailed a possible breakthrough on longstanding Israeli-Arab tensions.

The document was still quite critical of Israel, however, and the efforts weren’t enough to encourage the U.S. and Israel to reconsider their decision to quit.

In recent years, Israel has been infuriated by repeated resolutions that ignore and diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and that have named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.

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Israel Flag, Pixabay

The State Department couldn’t comment because of the U.S. government shutdown. Earlier, the department told UNESCO officials the U.S. intends to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member “observer state” on “non-politicized” issues, including the protection of World Heritage sites, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

Also Read: Israel Unanimously Approves Medical Marijuana Exports

The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.

The United States has pulled out of UNESCO before. The Reagan administration did so in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003. (VOA)