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A hitchhiker’s guide to humanity | Opinions


On a sunny afternoon in September 2006, my friend Amelia and I hitchhiked from the Lebanese capital Beirut to the city of Tire in southern Lebanon. It was a month after the July War ended – Israel’s 34-day offensive killed about 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians – and swaths of the country had been reduced to rubble.

We made our way to Beirut from Turkey via Syria – the latest in a series of international hitchhiking journeys that began one evening in 2003 in Greece, when the bus was taking too long and we wanted to go to the bar. bar. I graduated that same year from Columbia University in New York, and, confused about what to do with my absurd privileged school studies, I chose to go to the Greek island of Crete instead. to pursue a certificate to become an English teacher for foreigners. language.

There, I met Amelia, a classmate on a certification course whose family moved from Poland to the United States when she was 11 years old. that my elite education wasn’t an education at all – at least in terms of, you know, understanding how the world works.

Since 2003 we have hitchhiked from Mexico to Guatemala and Belize and from Spain to Italy and Turkey – combining various jobs, including at an avocado packing facility in Andalucía. Lebanon 2006 formed new terrain – one that involved navigating bombed bridges and roads as well as flattened villages.

Traveling south from Beirut, Amelia and I were picked up near one such bridge in the village of Naameh by a lively middle-aged man named Samir, who lived in Tire and who told us to jump in. It will happen countless times to the two of us. several months in Lebanon, then he insisted that we stay at his house, which he shares with his young son and is located directly across from an apartment complex that appears to have been cut in half by Israeli bombs and bullets, leaving a vertical row of kitchens.

For the next several days, Samir diligently fed us and escorted us around the Lebanon-Israel border to see the dilapidated houses and general devastation that was enthusiastically abetted by my own country. , United States, which expedited bomb shipments to the Israeli Army and maneuvered to prevent a ceasefire.

Although technically unauthorized foreigners by the Lebanese government are prohibited from entering border areas, Samir solved this obstacle by happily informing soldiers at military checkpoints that Amelia and I are his wife and sister, and will continue to pass.

In the end, we left Samir’s care and continued to run automatically again, encountering obscene hospitality at the border because the Lebanese and Palestinians not only let us ride, but also opened their doors, brought us food and drink, and filled us with gifts of all kinds – such as a sizable wall clock bearing the Hezbollah logo on which we had to hitchhike back to Turkey.

After Lebanon, Amelia and I will continue our intermittent hitchhiking excursions for another four years. And while simple humanity is extended to us time and time again it’s not always as ironic as when a Lebanese teenager whose house has just been bombed invites you to move in with her and her family. One thing has always been clear to her: there are a lot of good people in a world so unjust.

There were Moroccans who spent hours taking us to far-flung destinations, the couple from Quito picking us up by the roadside and taking us on their vacation on the Ecuadorian coast, and the Serbs insisting insisted on depositing us in person at the Serbian “hot spring” that we had determined to visit based on a very brief Google search performed on our Italian friend’s computer prior to departure. traveling from Rome. Finally, the hot spring is not a hot spring at all but a hospital for rheumatologists, where the hospital staff earnestly allowed us to take a water aerobics class hosted by a big smoking Serb named Little Joe.

There were slow-moving Colombian cargo trucks that received us for days on end, the Cubans taking us on a quest to find the exact landing point of the Granma – the Fidel Castro and Che Guevara yachts that sailed from Veracruz in 1956. – and the Mexican who arranged for me to participate in a bullfight in the village, where I was trampled by a bull while wearing a skirt. There were Bulgarians and Venezuelans, pickup trucks and carriages.

While there are obvious financial perks to auto-opening, the ultimate value is not economic. The basic view I have gathered about the sociopolitical reality of people – largely concerned with confronting the international catastrophe of military and economic atrocities perpetrated by my homeland – has helped enlighten my mind more than the Ivy League studies. Growing up as I was in a punitive capitalist system in which every last aspect of existence is monetized, the novelty of non-transactional tourism is also invigorating – as well. like the ability to trust complete strangers.

This is not to say that there isn’t a big favor to hitchhiking. Thanks to my imperial passport, I was largely free to hitchhike to Serbia for a water aerobics class – without facing criminalization and discrimination, for example. , a refugee from Afghanistan or Syria who is trying to engage in much less trivial cross-border pursuits.

Nor has it been implied that Amelia and I have never had to push back against unwanted sexual advances or jump out of some means. However, such episodes are an extreme exception to the norm.

Our joint automated missions ended in 2010, but I continue to travel more or less obsessively between the countries – albeit through the usual means of transportation: planes, ferries , buses, trains – until the pandemic stops temporarily. Perhaps because I’m about to turn 40, I think back to the days when, without using phones or the internet, Amelia and I would cross Europe just by the contours of the continent on the 5 euro note – a time when At least it still seems to me that the world is full of limitless possibilities.

Hitchhiking through Syria years ago, we were hitched up by a Syrian car driver who informed us that he didn’t have the faintest clue as to what we were doing inside. curb with his thumb out – but he thought he’d stop by and find out. And in an increasingly consuming world of high-speed digital distractions – in which there seems to be almost no time to dream – there is much to be said for slowing down and seeing it all. whatever.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.



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