Monday, January 14, 2013

Jaffa, by January blogger of the month Seth Morrison

There are few feelings quite as nice in the life of a student as the feeling of completing a round of semester-end final exams. When these are finally over, as they are now for our class of 2016, it is like a colossal weight that is lifted off the shoulders. This new-found freedom does not set in instantaneously after stepping out of the examination room, however. The pain lingers for about a day afterwards, like the residual aches a trekker feels in his thighs upon setting down his burden to rest by the campfire after traversing a high mountain pass. Then, after that day has passed, ever so gently the new freedom sinks into the soul as softly as a butterfly alighting on an outstretched palm. The world seems fresh and new, full of color and potential.

Fresh air is breathed by lungs that have known little else but stagnant, indoor, dusty Beer-Sheva air for the previous several weeks of reviewing. Once again the senses are reawakened, and the singing of birds and smells of the earth are noticed and appreciated. Of course, this spirited jubilation is always short-lived in the life of a medical student, for the rounds of intense study, exams, and interspersed periods of liberty are cyclical in nature.

It is in these interspersing periods of relative liberty that I most enjoy setting off on some new small undertaking. This, I think, helps to re-sharpen dulled corners of the mind and to find again fragments of knowledge that you forgot you knew. The undertaking could come in many shapes, sizes, and durations. It need not be doing some noble deed or philosophizing until a brilliant epiphany into the nature of existence is attained. It could be something as simple as walking next to a river, attending a symphony performance, visiting a museum, reconnecting with a friend, or writing a letter to your grandparents. Nearly anything that lies without one’s regular sphere of activities invites contemplation for those with a curious intellect.

So it was with this in mind that, after the completion of one semester and seeing the looming advent of the coming one just around the corner, I set off to spend a weekend in the seaside town of Jaffa on the southern skirts of Tel Aviv. Jaffa is renowned for its oranges (which I did not get the chance to try and which are currently out of season anyway), but it certainly had much more to offer than fruit. The town, possibly the oldest port in the world, is beautiful. Indeed the name, Jaffa/Yafo, comes from the Hebrew and Arabic words for beautiful (יפו in Hebrew). It is perched like a fortress on the side of a jutting hill facing the sea like an amphitheater, and has a density of art galleries that rivals any historic old city. Spending my weekend there achieved the desired effect many times over: it allowed a plethora of new and returning insights to sink into my brain. I watched fishermen bringing in their catch in the afternoon twilight. I saw an African-Israeli family celebrating a wedding in the town’s lovely hilltop gardens.  In the evenings, I heard the Islamic call to prayer belting from minarets, trailing through the chilly winter air, and then mixing with church bells chiming from nearby steeples. In short, the town’s idyllic charm and rhythmic, undulating ebb and flow of life set the mood for a relaxing and inspiring weekend, which was just the lift I needed to be reinvigorated before beginning a new chapter in Part One of my MSIH tale.  - Seth Morrison, first-year blogger of the month