August 21, 2019 – Lights, Camera (OOTD #552)

I never cease to be amazed at what a good photographer with a good camera can do.

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I don’t know to what extent you notice this, but the quality of my photographs varies greatly between blog posts based on who is taking the picture and on what device. Some of my best pictures are taken on my current iPhone by my father (who just has a really excellent eye for composition). Some of my worst from the early days of this blog were taken using my laptop webcam balanced on top of some textbooks and empty Cheez-It boxes.

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To be quite honest, these are probably some of my best ever — and the best I’m going to have for quite some time, until I’m either rich and can afford to pay a professional photographer to follow me around or until I make a loyal photographer friend who just enjoys taking my picture every day. Until then, I’ll have to settle for my iPhone and my Apple Watch’s remote camera feature for every day pictures.DSC_6795 copy.jpg

And that’s okay! Honestly, for as much fun as a full photo shoot can be, it’s also kind-of exhausting. I run out of poses and facial expressions after a while. I don’t know how professional models do it.

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These were taken by my friend, Adam Brester, a professional photographer, the same man who did my senior portraits way back in the day. You can even see examples from some of that season on his website! 

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Adam lives in Lexington, but he’s looking at potentially moving soon, so we thought it would be nice to do another session together before I headed to Washington DC and he headed to wherever life takes him next. He was looking for a subject for some portraits that he could add to his portfolio, and I was happy to get some Instagram content in exchange.DSC_6818 copy.jpg

Watching Adam work gives me an increased appreciation for photography as an art form. Of all of the mediums of the visual arts, such as painting or drawing, photography is probably the one I understand the least. Ironically, it is also probably the one that I deal with the most in my everyday life — I don’t paint every day, but I probably take at least one photo each day, whether it’s just a dumb selfie to send to my Snapchat streaks or an OOTD shot for this blog.

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Even if I take pictures every day, I certainly do not do so in the capacity of a “photographer.” Maybe an “artist,” at least in the sense that I consider my outfit stylings to be artistic, and I attempt to use my backgrounds and compositions to complement the artistry of the outfit. But a photographer — one who truly understands light and color and the various settings of the camera to create a desired effect — I certainly am not.

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That’s why watching someone like Adam work is so fascinating. I love watching people do things they’re good at that I am not. I love listening to film critics talk about cinematography, and I love watching musicians learn new pieces. I can’t do those either of those things with any skill, but I think it’s neat that there are people who can and who derive joy from their art. It may not be my art, but I’m glad it’s someone else’s.

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Plus, it was just nice to go out into the city and goof around for the evening. I wasn’t really home in Lexington much over the summer, and the time I did have, I didn’t really spend going out and doing anything. Mostly, I was just sitting at home trying either to get some rest after having returned from traveling or to pack to get ready to go traveling again.DSC_7171 copy.jpg

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

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Outfit 1: Tomato

Top: H&M

Skirt: Forever21

Outfit 2: Dragon lady

Top: Unknown

Skirt: The LOFT

Outfit 3: Hot dog saleswoman

Jacket: Vintage (thrifted, Foxhouse Vintage)

Sweater: Forever21

Skirt: A street vendor in Nepal

August 18, 2019 – Fair Weather Friends (OOTD #551)

Ironically, this post features neither “fair weather” nor any “friends.” It does have kind-of  gross, muggy late-August Kentucky weather and my family, though.

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I consider myself something of an expert in overcoming jet lag — I haven’t struggled with it really since my 2018 trip to Nepal, and that was over a year ago. Perhaps it stems from being a college student and never having a regular sleep schedule to begin with and ignoring my circadian rhythms on the daily.

My trick is to try as much as possible to use my time on the plane ride to get myself into the wake-sleep schedule of whatever my destination is. If I arrive in the morning, I try to stay awake the day/night before so I can sleep on the plane. If I’m arriving in the evening, I try to nap before the plane ride so I can then stay awake for the duration of the plane. The former is typically the easier option — I’m normally stressed before plane rides, so once I’ve finally made it onto the plane, I’m able to relax and get some sleep.

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After I’ve arrived at my destination, it’s then imperative to try to stay awake for the duration of the next full day. This is hard, especially when you’re home alone with nothing to do because there’s nothing to stop you from just crawling back into bed for your fourth nap of the day. The solution, then, is to go out and do something with friends.

Since I don’t have any of those (contrary to what this blog title might suggestion), I went out with my family to a local art fair — one of my favorite summer outing opportunities. I’m typically not big into summer-themed activities, but I must admit I love a good art fair.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Akira (thrift, my dorm room’s laundry room)

Skirt: A Pull and Bear in Zagreb

August 17, 2019 – A New York Minute (OOTD #550)

Nothing quite beats the feeling of returning back to the US after being gone for a long time.

Even if it’s just an airport — even an airport I’ve never been to before — and I have hours and hours of connections to make before I actually make it back to Kentucky, it’s nonetheless comforting being back in my own country.

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My flight from Tel-Aviv left at around midnight local time and arrived at New York JFK at 6 AM in the morning. My next flight to Atlanta wasn’t until 4 PM (though it ended up getting pushed back a few hours — thankfully I was still able to make the connection from ATL to LEX), so with my time, I decided to do what I do best in airports — leave and come back.

After dropping my bags off at baggage storage, I headed to the AirTrainJFK  to get into the city. JFK isn’t directly connected to the subway system (compared to say, Chicago O’Hare or London Heathrow or Copenhagen Kastrup, where you can get directly on the metro from the airport terminal), but it has its own train line that then connects to the subway in Queens.

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From Queens, I then bought a MetroCard for the subway (hot take: why is it called “MetroCard” when it’s the subway system? You’d immediately give yourself away as a visitor rather than a local if you referred to the New York underground transport system as a “metro” rather than a “subway,” so why do they use the word “metro” for their cards?) and took the J Train into Manhattan.

I only had a few hours — not enough to go into the tourist areas in the center of Manhattan —  so I mostly hung out around East Village.

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This was my first time in this particular neighborhood, and I must say, I liked it very much. With the exception of a homeless man who swore at me for ignoring him as I walked into a Starbucks, it was a lovely part of town — quieter than the Upper East or Upper West Sides, but still very much a part of New York. And it was relatively balanced in diversity — it didn’t seem to have a particular dominant cultural or ethnic leaning. Not that a neighborhood having a strong cultural leaning is a bad thing at all — but I thought it was cool to see a neighborhood that seemed to have so many different people living together in close proximity.

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My one complaint (besides the swearing homeless man — but like, that’s just New York) was that a lot of shops and restaurants were closed, even though I was there during the day. I visited on a Saturday morning, and nothing really seemed to start opening up until around 11AM, which was when I needed to start heading back to the airport. I was able to go into a few consignment shops, but on the whole, I was really only able to wander around the park and read The Times in Starbucks.

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Still better than sitting in the airport, but I guess New York does after sleep sometimes after all.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Dress: A shop on either Ben Yehuda or King George Street in Jerusalem (I’ve already forgotten, oops)

Hat: Thrifted (a consignment shop in Jerusalem)

August 16, 2019 – End Times (OOTD #549)

I’m really on a roll with these religion-themed blog titles.

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The reasoning behind this one, if it weren’t clear (which, to be fair, it’s probably not on the surface) is because this was my last day in Israel-Palestine, and I visited the Mount of Olives — the location where some faith traditions believe the end of the world will occur.

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Another layer of meaning you could derive, if you so choose to, is that I also visited the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus stopped and prayed before the end of his life. It was also a Friday, the end of the working week and the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath, Shabbat. 

After my big tour the previous day, I felt like I had pretty much seen everything within Old City that I wanted to see, so I decided to walk a little beyond the bounds of Jerusalem city center. After consulting the Internet for ideas of things to do in Jerusalem for free on Shabbat, I decided on the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives.

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And I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t know if I’d say either of them were my favorite sites from the whole trip (to be honest, I don’t know if I could choose just one) but they were a perfect way to get away from the insanity that is Jerusalem. Jerusalem wasn’t Rome insane, but, like Rome, it’s an ancient city that modern people live in — as a result, the limitations of architecture that was only built to accommodate donkeys and foot traffic is  constantly coming into conflict with the demands of 21st century life. I can’t tell you how many times I was almost run over by a scooter trying to drive through the narrow, winding streets of Old City.

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Gethsemane wasn’t much to look at as a garden — sure, it was lovely, but it’s no grand botanical conservatory, like what Copenhagen has. It’s simple and small — you can walk the perimeter in about two minutes. There’s an attached church, as with all of the “holy” Christian sites in Jerusalem, but it’s no architectural marvel.

What makes the Garden of Gethsemane great is that it’s one of the only sites in Jerusalem that actually looks somewhat like what it might have looked like in Biblical times. You can visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, but there will be no traces of the stable that supposedly used to stand there. You can visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Old City, but there’s no geographic indication that is was once a hill where the crosses stood. In fact, as I understand, many historians question whether these are the real locations of these famous religious events at all — or whether they’re just based on tradition stemming from an era of Crusaders who were desperate to claim they’d discovered the location of Jesus’s first carpentry classes.

The Garden of Gethsemane, however, actually is the garden from the stories. And furthermore, the olive trees may even potentially be the trees (or at least, descendants of the trees) that were there in Biblical times. Though the trees are too old to date precisely, scientists have determined that it’s possible that several are at least 900 years old, possibly older.Compare this to the (in my opinion) somewhat gaudy Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus was supposedly crucified, that’s surrounded on all sides by apartments and shops that prevent you from visualizing Golgotha as it might have looked 2000 years ago, and you see why I liked Gethsemane so much. A local caretaker for the garden even offered me some clippings from the olive trees and some saffron (which he instructed me to make tea out of in order to attract a boyfriend). IMG_6011

The other site I liked was the Mount of Olives. I wish it weren’t so hot when I made the climb from Lions’ Gate to the Church of the Ascension  (which I didn’t even go into because there was an entrance fee), but it made for a beautiful panoramic view of the city from the top. It made for the perfect end times to my Jerusalem trip.

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That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Israel-Palestine this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


T-shirt: Forever21

Turtleneck: Amazon

Jeans: Hollister

August 15, 2019 – Holy Ground (OOTD #548)

Thursday was my tourist day in Jerusalem.

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What, you thought I was going to go all the way to the Holy City without seeing the major tourist sites — the Western Wall, the Al-Aqsa mosque, and of course, the University of Alabama gift shop?

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The place I stayed at, Abraham Hostels, also offered tours, and as a guest, I got a slight discount. I considered trying to visit some of the “holy sites” by myself, but after a few days in Israel-Palestine on own, I realized that it would be best to just go with a tour guide.

Could I have probably done the research and learned how to visit some of the “holiest” and most contested locations in the world? Sure — and lots of visitors do it perfectly safely every day. But after spending half of the week stressing out over how to travel from Israel to Palestine when it’s illegal for even locals to so (spoiler alert: I figured it out), I decided I wanted a break. Maybe I had been spoiled after my cruise in the Galápagos Islands, but it sure is nice to have someone take care of all of your travel arrangements for you.

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On my designated “tourist day,” I saw the Western Wall, the Al-Aqsa Mosque (and the Dome of the Rock), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (for the second time), the Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Flagellation, and Jesus’s supposed handprint. Oh, and a Bama gift shop. That may have been my favorite.

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I’m just teasing —  I think my favorite may have actually been the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, just for the sheer beauty of the structure. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve seen a lot (seriously, so many) of places of worship in my travels.

This was actually one of the very first days that non-Muslim visitors were allowed to enter the premises of the Al-Aqsa Mosque for quite some time. During the whole month of Ramadan, it was closed, and it was closed again at the very beginning of my visit to Jerusalem for Eid ul-Adha.

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Because I was with a tour group, our time in the area was limited (only about 15 minutes, as we arrived just before it closed for mid-day prayer), but I had enough time to get some of my favorite photos from any travel experience ever. My photographer was a woman named Demi, whom I became friends with over the course of the tour. Honestly, I wish we’d met sooner — she made for a great photographer (and a nice companion, seeing as I’d spend pretty much all of the rest of my time in Israel-Palestine completely alone).

I always wonder what becomes of the people I meet briefly in random places when I travel around — I’ll likely never get to see them again, and even if I follow them on social media, we don’t exactly quality as “friends,” just acquaintances. What’s going on with Axel from France or Haya from Nepal or Bilal from Hungary or Nina from Croatia?

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I think the only way for me to get to see all of these people in once place again is either to get married or die — weddings and funerals, as they say. Honestly, one of those two options seems like the easier route to me, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready for it yet. Besides, I want to be still alive when all of my friends gather.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Israel-Palestine this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Skirt: Street vendor in New York

Sweater: Target

Camisole: H&M

Hat: Thrifted (a consignment shop in Jerusalem)

August 14, 2019 – How to Take Public Transport from Jerusalem to Bethlehem: A Traveler’s Guide (OOTD #547)

After a brief intermission featuring the World Holocaust Museum, it was back to research on the West Bank border graffiti.

After devoting my first full day in Israel-Palestine to taking a comprehensive tour with a Palestinian guide, all I had left in mind to do with the remainder of my time was go back on my own and have a closer look at the artwork. Easy, right?

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More like easier said than done. It shouldn’t have been as surprising to me as it was, but it’s rather difficult to travel between Israel and Palestine. It must have something to do with how the two regions don’t get along with each other (and haven’t for years), and how Palestinians are prevented by law from entering Israel and Israelis are prevented by law from entering Palestine. Just a wild guess.

As a foreigner, you are free to visit both — in fact, you’re even free to visit the Gaza Strip, though you probably shouldn’t unless you’re a specialized humanitarian aid worker. But just because you are free to visit the areas, doesn’t mean it’s a stress-free experience. In fact, for me, it actually was rather stressful because for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how best to get from Jerusalem (on the Israel side) to Bethlehem (on the Palestine side) via public transport.

This guide ended up being rather useful for me, but as it turns out, it was a little over a year old and difficult to follow at points. I’ve decided to compile my own little guide below:

How to take public transport from Jerusalem to Bethlehem: A Traveler’s Guide (2019) 

Congratulations! You’ve decided to take some time out of your trip to Jerusalem to visit its neighboring city, Bethlehem. Lots of solo travelers visiting Israel miss out on visiting Palestine because of how difficult it is to get there without a tour guide to help you. Good on you for deciding to broaden your horizons and check out a part of Israel-Palestine that many don’t want you to see.

Though the two cities are right next to each other, they’re divided along political boundaries (and with a physical barrier called the West Bank border) that make taking public transport between them rather complicated. Whether you’re going to see the Banksy hotel or the Church of the Nativity, you can use this guide to get from Jerusalem city center to Bethlehem.

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Note: when traveling between Israel and Palestine, always remember to carry your passport with you! You will need it to cross any checkpoints. Additionally, you never know when you’re going to be stopped by a police officer or soldier and asked to show your papers. The reality is that they use a lot of racial profiling to determine who to stop, so if you look definitively “foreign,” you may be less likely to be suspected of being a Palestinian trying to sneak into Israel (or vice versa), but it’s best to be safe! 

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  • From Jerusalem Old City, you’re going to want to head to Damascus Gate, the gate opposite Jaffa Gate, a common meeting point for tour groups. Just across the street from Damascus Gate, you’ll find the bus station for the Palestinian bus company, South Bus Company. South Bus Company is the only one that offers transport from Jerusalem into Bethlehem; the Jerusalem bus company, Egged, will get you near the border, but it cannot take you into Bethlehem. You can tell South Bus Company buses apart from Egged buses because South Bus Company buses are blue and white while Egged buses are green.
  • South Bus Company runs three routes from Damascus Gate:
    1. The 234, “Checkpoint 300” (formerly the 24) — this bus travels from Damascus Gate to Checkpoint 300 (sometimes also known as the Rachel’s Tomb crossing). It does not technically go into Bethlehem. The bus will drop you off outside of the Checkpoint 300 terminal, at which you will have to cross the border on your own. This is what I did, as the 231 was not running the day I tried to visit. It’s a little scary at first, but with your foreign passport, the soldiers will hopefully not give you a hard time. They’re less concerned about people trying to get in to Palestine as they’re concerned about people trying to get out.
      • This is a good route to take if you’re only interested in seeing the West Bank border graffiti or the Banksy Hotel. They are within a 10 minute walk of the Checkpoint 300 exit. Use Google Maps to navigate you to the Banksy Hotel, and from there, you should be very easily able to follow the perimeter of the wall to see the art.
      •  Checkpoint 300 can be very busy depending on what time of day you visit! Try to avoid morning and evenings of weekdays, as many Palestinians will be crossing to leave for work/return home from work at these times
      • After you exit Checkpoint 300 on the Bethlehem side is a great place to grab a taxi, if you want one.
    2. The 231, “Beit Jala” (formerly the 21) — this bus travels from Damascus Gate to Bethlehem City Center, near the Church of the Nativity. This bus route does not require you to deal with Checkpoint 300 on your own, but you will still have to wait for the police to check the papers of every passenger. Because of this, you may be held up for some time. This is the route I tried to take, but for whatever reason, it was not operating that day, and I had to take the 234 instead.
    3. The 232, “Beit Safafa” (formerly the 22) — this was the route on which I was able to find the least amount of information. I know that it begins at Damascus Gate like the other two, but I was not able to find where it actually terminates. From what I could gather, I believe this bus may go all the way into Hebron, but I am not certain.
      • If you have any information on the 232 route, let me know and I’ll add it to the guide!
  • Fare for one trip is 5 NIS, or approximately 1.42 USD. You can only pay in cash.
  • Here’s South Bus Company’s official website that you can see the latest info on. They only have their website in Hebrew and Arabic, so use Google Translate if you need English (or another language). The site shows you routes and the schedules.
    • Note that in Palestine and Israel, the working week is Sunday-Thursday. From sundown Friday to sunrise Sunday, Jews (so, Israelis in particular) observe Shabbat, meaning that public transport in Jerusalem is not widely available. As a result, on the schedule, you’ll see Sunday-Thursday, then Friday and Saturday schedules.
  • Be mindful of time if you’re traveling very far into Palestine. Within Bethlehem and the rest of the West Bank, there are more checkpoints beyond the initial checkpoint crossing, depending on whether you are technically in Palestinian or Israeli territory. Each checkpoint has certain hours of operation, so you do not want to get caught on the wrong side of a checkpoint after it has closed!
    • Checkpoint 300, the main checkpoint for crossing between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, is supposedly open 24/7. However, I have also heard that Palestinians will queue for hours in early morning in order to ensure that they can get to work on time in the morning, so just because a checkpoint is permanently staffed, does not mean that processing will be efficient at all hours of the day!
  • To return to Jerusalem at the end of your travels, simply catch the bus again from where you got off. You will need to pay another 5 NIS fare. You can either ride the bus all the way back to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem or signal the bus driver (usually a wire to pull or button to press) that you want to get off at any of the stops in Bethlehem or Jerusalem along the way.

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Let me know if you have any particular questions or if there’s anything you think I need to elaborate on further! This is all just based on my experience over the summer; no guarantee of course that things will be the same when you visit. If you have any information to add based on your travels, please leave a comment!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Israel-Palestine this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: TJ Maxx

Trousers: J.Crew

August 13, 2019 – Interlude (OOTD #546)

Here’s the thing about independent research trips: you don’t have to do research for the whole time.

 

Or maybe you do — I don’t know, I’ve never done one before. Maybe a good researcher would spend all of their time devoted to their work. Alternatively, maybe all research trips are fake and people just go on them to travel to exotic places on their university’s budget. What do I know?

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Anyway, after a whole day devoted to working on my research project on the West Bank border graffiti, I decided I deserved a break. I knew I needed to go back to the border and have a closer look at some of the graffiti, but it’s not exactly an easy task. I needed another day or two to research how even I could get back to the area safely on my own, so in the meantime, I decided to do something a little more accessible to the average tourist.

What I ultimately decided to do was visit Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Museum.

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What I show here are not photos of me at Yad Vashem for what I think should be an obvious reason — a memorial to genocide is not the place for fashion photography. Sure, I took pictures while I was there of the exhibits, but the focus was on the exhibit, not me. As much as I like to make things about me, the Holocaust is far beyond the scope of even my narcissism.IMG_5418.jpeg

I did like my outfit though, so instead, I got some pictures with a sculpture and a nice hill overlooking the city in a nearby park.

It was a great museum though, seriously. That’s coming from me — a person who normally finds museums (except for art museums) to be dull and slow. The best part — as is the best part with a lot of museums to tragic events, such as the 9/11 Museum — were the video testimonies from people who lived through it. Diary entries and photographs and personal belongings help embellish the narrative, of course, but only the people who lived the experience can tell the story.IMG_5372.jpeg

They also did a fair job, in my opinion, from keeping the museum historical, rather than making it into it about why Zionism and a national Jewish state need to exist (though they did touch on that in the last room or two). Having just come from Palestine the previous day, I appreciated the dominantly historical approach.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Israel-Palestine this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Coat: Forever21

Dress: Vintage (thrift, Brick Lane Market)

Blouse: ASOS

 

August 12, 2019 – The Writing on the Wall (OOTD #545)

Here we are: the actual reason for my trip to Israel-Palestine!

I didn’t really discuss this in my blogs from last spring, but I spent a sizable chunk of time before spring break writing a grant proposal to go to Jerusalem to do some research. It was a long shot — I never thought I’d actually get the money to go, and I mostly considered it an experiment with the grant-writing process (which I had only done once before, to go to Vichy for a week-long language intensive in French) that would be useful practice for later.

The plan to go to Israel-Palestine stemmed from the time I’ve spent over the last two years working with the Madrasa Discourses project, for the conciliation of traditional Islamic thought with modernity in India and Pakistan. The idea first came from a friend that I made while in Doha with an MD conference. She was the one who originally proposed turning our experiences with Madrasa Discourses and interreligious dialogue into an independent project, and so I owe it to her for inspiring me to actually go through with the whole undertaking.IMG_5062.jpeg

Though she ultimately couldn’t go, which was a huge factor in determining my level of comfort going to a politically tense area like Jerusalem, I still decided to do it. You don’t get a grant from your university to do research every day — especially when the research takes you to a country and a culture you’ve experienced been before.

There have been many famous walls throughout history – the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, the of Northern Ireland Peace Lines – and now a new barrier wall has joined their ranks.

This barrier wall is the West Bank barrier, which separates the Muslim-dominant Palestine from the Jewish-dominant Israel. Described by Israelis as a “security fence” (geder-ha-hafrada) and by Palestinians as an “apartheid wall” (jidar al-fasl al-‘unsuri), the barrier has been a subject of controversy ever since its construction began in 2002. Out of controversy and political unrest, however, can spring one of the most passionate and creative forms of self-expression: art.

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Much like what was seen in Berlin and Belfast, artists in Jerusalem have transformed the concrete that separates Israel and Palestine into a canvas for political discussion. On either side of these walls, activists, professional artists, and civilians have used graffiti as a way to express opinions about the situation in Israel-Palestine and the barrier’s existence.

During the course of my one-week journey to Israel-Palestine, I studied this political graffiti on the West Bank border wall, focusing specifically on the area around Bethlehem. My goal was to discover some of the artistic themes on the wall and how those reflected local sentiment about the ongoing Israel- Palestine conflict. More specifically, I wanted to study how the opposing narratives of the border wall as a “security fence,” as it is referred to by many Israelis, or as an “apartheid wall,” as it is referred to by many Palestinians, were evident in the wall’s artwork.

If you’re not familiar with the situation in Israel-Palestine surrounding the border wall, here’s a little context: the border was initially constructed by Israel to protect against extremist Palestinian bombings, and to many Israelis, it has done its job well. In 2004, approval of the wall for Jewish-Israelis was at 78%, with many arguing that it had caused the shift from nearly-weekly bombings in 2003 to only three attacks in 2004. IMG_5087.jpeg

However, though the barrier primarily follows the Green Line (a 1948 armistice border acknowledged by the UN), it swerves east several kilometers to incorporate certain Israeli settlements. To many Palestinians, this is nothing short of occupation and land grab. The wall cuts off many Palestinian citrus and olive farmers from their land, making it difficult or impossible for them to harvest their crops because of the new security checkpoints. Crossing the checkpoints from Palestine-controlled Bethlehem to get into Israel-controlled Jerusalem also poses many problems for Palestinians; people begin queuing hours in advance on weekday mornings so that they can get to their jobs in Jerusalem. Many simply bypass the checkpoints and cross the border illegally every morning instead — something Israeli employers easily take advantage of by refusing to pay “illegal” Palestinians for labor they have already completed.

With this background in mind, I began my preliminary research by taking a graffiti tour with a Palestinian guide. This initial tour was crucial, as he was able to point out key pieces of art (such as those by famous English graffiti artist Banksy) and direct me to other wall-related graffiti that was in the area but not necessarily on the wall itself. I came back at a later date to actually scrutinize individual pieces and photograph the wall itself; this first day was just to get my bearings with the help of a local. With this as my main goal for the day, I was able to relax a little and just enjoy learning.

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Due to the constantly changing nature of graffiti, some of the pieces that I had seen online when I had been doing research for my grant proposal had been completely removed or covered by new pieces of graffiti. For example, one, which had previously depicted President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu in a kiss, had been altered to remove their embrace. It may be interesting to go again in a year or so to see how the visible graffiti has changed — which pieces have been scrubbed away, or covered up by other graffiti, or had their message altered.

My guide also took me into Bethlehem to see a Palestinian refugee camp, where I got to talk to some locals (including an elderly man who rememberd when the Palestinians were orignally evicted from their homes in 1948 during what is known to Israelis as their War of Independence and known to Palestinians as The Nakba, meaning “the Catastrophe” in Arabic). Seeing the lives of Palestinians as they went about their days was honestly just as impactful as the graffiti. At one point, we had to cross into a piece of territory that was technically under the control of Israel. We, as foreigners, were allowed in but our Palestinian guide was stopped by IDF soldiers before he even got to the checkpoint.

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But it wasn’t all politics and gloom — we visited a part of Hebron, where we saw a glassblowing workshop. We also saw the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the (honestly, kind of tacky) Crusade-era church built to commemorate the supposed birthplace of Jesus. And we got lunch at a really lovely Palestinian cafe, which was still open despite the fact that it was a Muslim holiday and most places were closed.

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When I originally wrote this grant proposal, I had hoped to learn about both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict through the artwork on the wall. As it turned out, there wasn’t much artwork on the Israeli side at all, nor was there much artwork on the Palestinian side that might be described as “pro-Israel.” I thought that this might be the case going in — graffiti often being used more as a vessel for protest rather than praise — so my trip helped to confirm my belief.

Because I actually visited Palestine/the West Bank, rather than just viewing images of the wall online, I actually got a sense of what life is like for the Palestinians who live behind the wall. Perhaps most apparent was the great wealth disparity that was immediately visible as soon as I crossed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. They feel like worlds apart — one is relatively safe, modern, and comfortable, and the other looks more like what you’d imagine a war zone in the Middle East to be. The massive concrete wall, guard towers, and IDF soldiers watching you from above doesn’t help.  

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Do I recommend that you go to the wall itself? Personally, I feel a little conflicted about the concept of political tourism, because actual people’s lives aren’t something to be gawked at and photographed like animals at a zoo — however, it’s critical to educate yourself about the history and political context of the places you go, and one of the best ways to do that is simply to pay a visit to a contested area. Each city has one– it’s Freedom Square in Budapest, it’s the Opéra in Vichy.

As the quote goes, travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Respect the people you encounter, don’t treat it like it’s another tourist destination for Instagram, and share what you see if it so moves you to consider a different perspective or narrative than you thought you knew.

If you ever get the chance to visit Israel-Palestine, I highly recommend popping over to the West Bank to get the Palestinian story. Whatever you decide, do as the writing on the wall says, and “don’t be a brick in this wall.”IMG_5145

 

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Israel-Palestine this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Zara

Coat: Forever21

Trousers: Altar’d State

August 11, 2019 – The Promised Land (OOTD #544)

Here we are, the very last of my summer break 2019 travels!

I think the Galàpagos to Jerusalem flight sequence was one of the longest I’ve ever experienced. It went a little something like this:

  • Take a panga boat from the cruise ship in the Galàpagos to the shore, early morning August 9
    • Take a ferry to another part of the island
    • Take a bus to the tortoise reserve
    • Take a bus to the airport
    • Fly from the Galàpagos back to coastal city in mainland Ecuador, midday
    • Fly from the coastal city to Quito, afternoon
    • Fly from Quito to Atlanta, late night
  • Arrive in Atlanta, early morning August 10
    • Fly from Atlanta to New York JFK, morning
    • Fly from New York JFK to Tel-Aviv, late afternoon
  • Arrive in Tel-Aviv, early morning August 11
    • Take a shared cab from Tel-Aviv Airport to hostel in Jerusalem
    • Arrive at hostel in Jerusalem, late morning

By the time I made it to my hostel in Jerusalem, I was exhausted — but not super sleepy. I was tired from all of the traveling, from moving from boats to buses to ferries to airplanes to taxi cabs over the course of 48 hours, but I had actually managed to get a decent amount of sleep during the commute. It maybe wasn’t a great quality of sleep, but at least it was sleep.

Arriving on Israel on my own was rather scary. I mean, I’ve done it before — arriving in airports in new cities in new countries and having to make my way into the city — but Tel-Aviv was different. I’ve traveled on my own in Europe, but not before in the Middle East.

The remarkable thing about traveling and being nervous about doing new things is that, assuming you actually do the thing, your nervousness doesn’t matter much. Being afraid to try something new affects whether you’ll actually do the thing (say, try to find a sherut shared taxi from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem), but it doesn’t affect what happens after you’ve decided to do it. I was nervous to approach the cabbie and ask if he was going to Jerusalem, but that didn’t change whether or not I was going to have to do it or not. I had to make it from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, and that was that.

And I did make it. The cabbie wasn’t exactly a friendly guy, but thankfully, we didn’t have to talk long. A 45 minute drive later, he dropped me at my hostel, and I was on my way.

I was actually a little too early to check in to my room, and so I decided to go for a walk around the city to pass the time. The hostel had a place to store my bags, which was nice, and the concierge was able to point me in the direction of a free tour I could take later in the afternoon.

Before the tour began, I wandered around the area a little to see what there was. I had arrived during a holiday, which made it so that most of the shops and restaurants were closed. As it turned out, though, I didn’t mind — that also meant the streets were emptier, which made taking pictures like this, on a shopping street that might have normally been  busy, possible.

My free walking tour covered the four quarters of Old City Jerusalem — the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, and the Christian Quarter. Since it was free, we didn’t actually go into any of the sites, like the Dome of the Rock or the Western Wall, but that was okay. I ended up seeing those later. Our guide took us to see a beautiful view of the city from a rooftop and to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (honestly, one of the least exciting “holy sites” I visited — and that’s the one that was supposed to be most important to my religion). For free, it was everything I needed.

The one thing I was hoping to do on my tour that I didn’t was make friends. I was supposed to go on this research trip with someone else from school, but she didn’t end up getting the grant to go. I wasn’t looking for like, a best buddy, but I was hoping to talk to some people and maybe get to know someone from my hostel whom I could travel a little with. But to no avail.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Israel-Palestine this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Forever21

Jeans: Hollister

Sweat: The Middle Eastern sun

July 15, 2019 – London Layover (OOTD #533)

Best. Layover. Ever.

Here it is — the last blog from my summer European adventure. And what an adventure it was. Fitting that it should end with one last big adventure, right?

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another day, another airport

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Croatia was not actually the last country I visited on this trip — it was actually England. After departing the Zagreb airport at around 1pm in the afternoon (though I’ll mention I arrived at like 7am, on account of my friend’s flight departing earlier than mine), I made it to London Heathrow a little over an hour later.

And then I sat and waited.

My next flight, the one that would take me to Chicago, wasn’t going to leave until the following day at 7am. I had a 16-hour layover to wait out. Thankfully, if my traveling has taught me anything, it’s how to handle long layovers in the airport — and the best way to handle a long layover in the airport is to leave.

And how do you leave London Heathrow? Why, you take the Underground of course!  If the tube was already my favorite public transit system in the entire world, it just got even better when I realized it was directly connected to the airport. I love metros that connect directly to airport terminals, like Copenhagen or Chicago. Having to take a bus to the nearest metro station — or worse, having to take a separate metro and pay an additional fee on top of your regular metro ticket like you have to do in New York JFK — sucks.

It certainly wasn’t a short ride, but it was much cheaper than taking the fast train, the Heathrow Express. And it got me where I wanted to go — the Westminster tube station.

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eye see what you did there

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best 16 hour layover ever

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I don’t really know what I was looking for out of this stopover. I mean, I’ve already been to London and I’ve seen the majority of the tourist sites that one can see in an afternoon while waiting for a connecting flight. I’ve seen Big Ben and the London Eye and Westminster and all of the major sites that were in this particular area. I just wanted to go again, to feel what it felt like to look across the bridge and see all of the tourists clamoring to get photos with the ferris wheel. I even joined some of the tourists and got a few photos of my own.

From there, I went to see something I hadn’t actually seen on my 2017 London trip: Hyde Park. Amanda and I had originally had this on our to-do list, but it got cut for time and because everything we read online suggested that it wasn’t really that spectacular of a park.

And to be honest, from what I saw on this tour, I agree. I think perhaps, I just went at a bad time, as it looked like whole sections of the park were closed off for a music festival that was about to park. I also didn’t have enough time to walk the whole thing.  I did get to glimpse some of the gardens, which were lovely while they were in bloom. It was no botanic conservatory, but for a free place to walk around for an hour and get some pictures in the fading light for my blog, it was perfect.

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london bridge is falling down 🎶

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My last stop before heading back to Heathrow to spend the night sleeping on a bench was Tower Bridge herself. This was another site that I think I may have glimpsed in passing during my 2017 trip, but I never got around to paying a proper visit to. I don’t know if walking across the modern London Bridge and snapping some pictures as the sun set counts as a “proper visit,” but it was very pleasant nonetheless.

And even if it doesn’t count, I guess that just means I have all the more reason to go back to London one day. Oh well. You don’t have to ask me twice.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Coat:Vintage (thrifted, Ecseri Bazaar in Budapest)

Top: FreePeople

Jeans: Hollister