Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring in DC: Jon Reports

Sadly, Jon flew back to London yesterday.  (Though almost every person we talked to while he was in DC suggested he just stay in the States, he was legally required to return to the UK to await his visa.  We're back to our holding pattern now, but hopefully we'll hear something concrete from USCIS soon.)  Since he had some time to kill in the morning before his flight, I asked him if he'd jot down a few words about his trip - the blog is yours, Jon!

I've been fortunate enough to have spent nearly two weeks with Betsy in DC following a highly last minute decision to get myself on a plane and, you know, actually visit my wife - we try and make the effort to see each other from time to time on account of being married and everything.

A day of frolicking in NYC aside (where I had an unexpected but very pleasant chat with Mayor de Blasio in a packed subway car, seems like a decent chap) one of the best things about this trip was the opportunity to spend time "normalising" DC. I've been to this beautiful city plenty of times, so there's no need on my end to be rushing around doing touristy things. Instead, while Betsy was at work I mainly spent my time working from home, walking and bonding* with Charlie, exploring the neighbourhood with trusty lab in tow.

But that's not to say that I wasn't able to pack in a fair few memories and experiences while I was here. Betsy took me to my second ever baseball game (go Nats!) on a beautiful spring evening which, to this sun starved Brit, felt like the height of summer. I got to experience the culinary highs and lows of America in a single evening, from a chili cheese dog at Ben's Chili Bowl (just amazing) to a Miller Lite, which is hands down the worst thing I've ever drunk from a can - you do some great beer, America, but that stuff is a crime against an undeserving human race. Anyway, we beat the Marlins so all was well!

Other highlights of the trip included waking up super-early to go see the cherry blossom with Betsy and Charlie. I have to admit that I was a little sceptical about this as blossom is undoubtedly pretty, but come on, 5.30am on a Saturday pretty? It turns out I was absolutely wrong - the nascent light from the rising sun gave a truly magical feel to a seemingly endless sea of soft pink trees, the sense of complete serenity only broken by Charlie's repeated attempts to launch himself into the tidal basin in chase of an elusive duck. That dog has no sense of the sublime.

Lots of other fun stuff took place, including a lovely walk to historic Alexandria from Georgetown and thoroughly enjoyable dinners and drinks with friends, but I won't go into too many details. In truth, the greatest part of the trip was just getting to spend time with Betsy in a "normal" way for the first time in the past year or so. Sure, we've seen each other on all sorts of visits, from the Bahamas to our wedding, but I haven't seen her off to work, walked with her to the metro, cooked dinners and planned weekends together, essentially do all the day to day things couples do, since she left London back in 2012. It was a taste of what we have to look forward to together, and fingers crossed the next time I'm headed over to see her, it will be for good.

*bribing with an endless stream of treats whilst sobbing LOVE ME to a confused labrador.

Photos from Jon's walk through Georgetown, across the river, and to Alexandria - the last photo was taken at the top of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.
(I'm not really sure why he decided to take a tour of the building but he managed to see some "members only" areas/memorabilia and he said it was like something out of a Dan Brown novel!)

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Next Year In Jerusalem

Chag sameach, dear readers!  Passover began at sundown last night.  Like Purim, the last holiday I shared with you, Passover celebrates a variation on a common theme in Jewish history: we were oppressed and then, with God's help, we became free.  (To learn more about the story, watch the absolutely brilliant a cappella Frozen version above.)

One of my favorite parts of the Passover seder, a ritual meal accompanied by prayers observed on the first and second nights of the eight-day holiday, comes at the very end, when everyone gathered around the table cries in unison, "Next year in Jerusalem!"  Of course, the spiritual hope of all Jews is to make aliyah and move to Israel, uniting the diaspora in the Holy Land, and this exclamation is, at its most literal, an expression of that, but there's a more significant meaning behind it. As explains, "Jerusalem is much more than a city. It’s an ideal that we are struggling to reach."
The Hebrew name for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which means limitations, restrictions, obstacles. It represents a state in which our souls are trapped in our bodies, enslaved to material desires and tied down to physical limitations. It is a world in which righteousness, justice and holiness are held captive to corruption, selfishness and egotism.
Jerusalem means “the city of peace”—a place of peace between body and soul, heaven and earth, the ideal and reality. When our body becomes not a prison for the soul but rather a vehicle for the soul’s expression; when we live our lives according to our ideals rather than our cravings; when the world values goodness and generosity over selfish gain—then we are in Jerusalem, we are at peace with ourselves and the world.
The Jewish story can be summed up as a long journey from Egypt to Jerusalem. Beyond being just geographical locations, they symbolize two opposite spiritual states. The journey from Egypt to Jerusalem is a spiritual odyssey. Both as a nation and as individuals, we have always been leaving the slavery of Egypt and heading towards the freedom of the Promised Land. 
As we sit at the Seder, we note that another year has gone by, and we have yet to complete the journey. But we are getting there. We are that much closer to the Promised Land than we were last year. We have advanced a few more steps in a march to freedom that has spanned generations.
And so, regardless of your faith, perhaps you will say the words of the Haggadah with me:

This year we are here, next year we will be in the Land of Israel.
This year we are slaves, next year we will be free.

Passover on the blog: 2011, 2012, 2013

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