Thursday, July 30, 2015

I have not posted for a long time, so anyone that sees this blog might be surprised to see this post.
I have to decided to start blogging again, but my new blog will be much more positive and easy going. I will share stories about my many travels and life living in Vietnam over the past two and a half years.
Because my new blog will be so different, it should have its own address, its own home. So here it is. I hope you will follow the continuation of my story.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Moving On

It has now been a little over a month since I moved to Vietnam, and I must say that things are going great. I am very truly happy with my life here. Of course things are not perfect, but this is the best I have felt in a very long time.

But I must say, that there are times that I feel bad for being so happy, so soon after my parents were killed. I remember after being told that my parents didn't survive, that I could not imagine ever being happy again. And yet, its less then a year later and I am doing great.

I remember at one point during my stay in the rehab center, I was feeling very lonely at nights. I felt that pretty much everyone in my family was married and could lean on their partner for support, but I was single and had to get through the sad nights alone. So I started to visit online dating sites to chat with guys in an attempt to find some kind of companionship. I even thought that maybe I would find someone that I could possibly be with once I got out of the rehab center. But this made me feel very guilty. How could I be thinking about dating so soon after loosing my parents?

I mentioned to a friend that I had been visiting online dating sites and talking to people in an attempt to find some companionship. I told her how guilty I felt because of this. She told me that I should not feel guilty, and that life has to go on. Sitting around and wallowing in sadness for the sake of being sad does no good for anyone. Of course she was right. So why do I now still feel guilty sometimes for having moved on with my life?

There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about my parents. I miss them terribly. I wish I could share with them all the wonderful experiences I am having. I wish that I could speak to them and try and convince them to come out here and visit me. I know that they didn't think so, but they would have really enjoyed a trip out here.

My parents deaths have left a hole in my life that nothing can ever fill. No matter how happy I ever am, they will always be missing. My life will never feel a hundred percent right. But staying sad all the time for the sake of staying sad helps no one. So I've moved on.

I know that there are people that have a set idea of how much time after a tragedy someone must wait before moving and rebuilding. Some people get this amount of time based on their religious beliefs, some might come up with a number based on certain "social standards". Growing up as an Orthodox Jew, I was always told that this was 11 months. But the truth is that the number varies from person to person. Some people need to mourn longer and some need to move on quicker. Any attempt to force someone into some uniformed standard will probably do more harm then good.

There will be a moment every day for the rest of my life that I think about how I lost my parents and I will be sad. But the moment will pass and I will go on doing what I have to in order to be happy. A life spent being miserable is not a life that I would want to live. So I've moved on.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

You Have Never Seen Anything Like This!

I really love being in Vietnam. I have a great time and I think this country has a lot to offer. Of course that does not mean that Vietnam does not have its faults. One of the craziest things I have ever seen and experienced is the road and driving culture of this country. If you have never been here, I promise that you have never seen anything like it.

To start off with, at any given intersection, there can easily be 50, 60, plus motor bikes crowded together, waiting to continue on. It is not uncommon to see a family of three or four people on the same motorbike.
A family of 4 on one bike waiting at a crowded intersection
I am always impressed by the the ladies wearing nice dresses or skirts, who somehow keep their balance while riding side saddle as the bike weaves and shakes through traffic. Why is the bike weaving and shaking through the traffic? That is because there are basically no rules on the roads of Hanoi. The traffic patterns in Hanoi can only be described as chaos. Some motorbikes go slow and block traffic, while others speed around them cutting one another off. Many motorbikes do not have rear view mirrors, so everyone is constantly tapping on their horn to inform their fellow drivers of where they are on the road. Of course the lack of rear view mirrors are less of an issue for the drivers going the wrong way down the road. And all of this is going along as every motorbike driver is trying to avoid the ever growing number of cars on the road. (Video below)

This might sounds very scary to someone that has never seen anything like it. However, having driven here in Hanoi, I realized that this chaos actually works. In general, no one wants to be in an accident, so most drivers are very careful. On top of that, traffic in the city rarely goes any faster then 30 or 40 km/h (18mph to 25mph). Driving in Hanoi is one of the more interesting experiences I have ever had. And once you are in the traffic, you realize it is not that scary.

What really was scary was being in a car outside of the city. Two weeks ago, me and some friends went on a trip to an Island. We had to go to the port by Ha Long, a 5 hour drive from Hanoi. Most of the roads up to Ha Long were 2 lane highways that cut right through small villages and cities along the way.

A Map of our route to Ha Long

For the locals of these villaes, the road is a local one, and they dive along the road at the same slow pace as in Hanoi. But for those using the roads as a highway, they speed along at speeds up to 80 or so km/h (50mph plus). And of course people are weaving in out of traffic trying to avoid the slow drivers, not to mention the vehicles that are going the wrong way down the highway. Besides the speeds, another major difference between these roads and Hanoi is that most of the vehicles are not motorbikes, rather they are huge trucks and buses. I remember sitting in the front seat of our taxi when all the sudden a huge dump truck was heading right for us. And amazingly enough, I was the only one in the car that was scared. For everyone else, this is simply how people drive here.

So being on the roads of Vietnam is an experience in of itself. I hope I did a good job of explaining the organized chaos. You should really come and experience it for yourself. It is quite astonishing.

The Vietnamese are either the world'ss best drivers, or the worst. I have yet to figure out which.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I'm in Vietnam!

Its been about two weeks since I last posted and a very eventful and busy two weeks at that. In fact, I will probably have to divide the events into multiple posts. But the most important bit of news is, I am finally in Vietnam. Years of dreaming, planning, and overcoming obstacles have finally led to this moment.

Over the weeks leading up to my arrival in Vietnam, my friends kept asking me if I was excited yet. I always answered, not yet, but probably when I am on the plane. But once I was on the plane, I still was not excited. After my string of bad luck, I guess I was still prepared for something to go wrong. But nothing went wrong and as soon as my plane touched down in Hanoi, I became so excited and was smiling from ear to ear.

I was met at the airport by my dear friend Hoang. It was so wonderful and emotional seeing him for the first time in nearly two years. The truth is that I was a bit nervous that after not seeing each other for so long, it might be hard to get back into our old the rhythm of joking around. But my concerns were unwarranted. It was as if no time had passed. That is the way it is with special friendships.

Me and Hoang

After a week or so of bouncing around and a trip to Bangkok (I hope to write about the trip in a different post), I finally found the apartment that I will be calling home for the near future. It is a really nice apartment, large roomy and comfortable.But more interesting then the apartment itself, is the location. Back in 2011, during my trip to Vietnam, the area around Truch Bach lake became one of my favorite places in the city. When I was bored, I use to go ride around the lake and enjoy the view and cool air. And now, nearly two years later, I am living about a 1 minute walk away from the lake. During all those many drives around the lake, I never even imagined I could live there, and yet here I am.

Truch Bach Lake

My whole moving to Vietnam can be looked at in a similar way. While I had planned this and wanted it for a while, the accident, the loss of my parents and my injuries really could have put an end to my plans. I know that many of my friends told me that they expected me to give up on this particular dream after the accident. But I did not. A mere 7 months after everything was destroyed, I am living a dream and for the most part, I am happy.

Who would have thought?  :)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Goodbye Israel: A Breakup Letter

Dear Israel,

There is no nice way to say this, but it is time we ended our relationship. Even though we have been together for 10 and half years, I am sure that this break up does not come as a surprise to you. For quite a while now, I have obviously not been happy with this relationship. Nothing good can come from continuing down this path. I am sorry.

This is not to say that it was always bad. I remember the first time we met. I was very young, just 10 years old. It really was love at first sight. I told my parents that I didn't want to go home and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. They told me that I was too young and that I had to wait until I was older. I was disappointed and sad, but I swore to myself that the second I was old enough, we would be together.
Love at First Sight 

Over the next few years, I visited you a number of times, and each time my love for you only grew. I could not wait to finish high school so that I would be old enough and I could go off and be with you. And that is exactly what I did. 3 months after graduating, we were finally together.

At first things were very good. I was still very much in love and in my eyes, you could do no wrong. But then slowly things started to change. You became very demanding and made everything difficult for no reason. Nothing I ever did for you was good enough. And you always managed to back out of any support that you promised to give me in return for all I was doing for you. I left everything I knew to be with you, and you did not appreciate me. I was very nearly killed protecting you, and you still continued to treat me like I was not doing enough for you.

I tried to stick by you, I really did. But as I grew up and matured, you rejected the changes I made in my life.I began to see the world a little differently then you do and for you, this was completely unacceptable. You made sure that there were consequences for my falling out of line. You began to treat me as if I was less. Why? After all I had done for you and all I had given you, why couldn't you accept me as I am?

It was at this point that I decided that we could no longer be together. I had put your happiness ahead of my own for too long and that is not a sacrifice I am willing to make any more. And quite frankly, you do not deserve that kind of dedication. You screwed me over every opportunity you got. But this is where it ends.

I am sure we will still see each other. After all, we have many mutual friends. And maybe it does say something positive about you that so many of my great friends love you so much. But, I do not feel the same. So...Goodbye

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Letter to my Parents: No. 2

Dear Mommy and Abba,

It has been a tough, emotional week. Since most of the day I just sit at home alone while everyone I know is at work or school, I have lots of time to think. To start with, Monday would have been your birthday Abba. To be honest, I have been so bored, and have had nothing to do, so I rarely look at a calender and am more often than not unaware of the exact date. The day almost slipped by without me noticing that it was in fact March 18th. However, since I had to switch the billing notifications that used  your email to my email, I received a number of "Happy Birthday Ari Horowitz" emails. When I saw these emails, my first reacting was to feel sad and to miss you, which was soon followed by guilt for not realizing up to that point that it was your birthday. Sorry.

Since that day, there has been lots of talk about Pesach (Passover). Everyone is being very sweet and concerned for me. I have been invited to spend the seder (Passover holiday meal) with many different people. While I do appreciate everyone's invitations, I have decided to stay home and skip the seder this year. While I am sure this is not what you would have wanted, I really don't see another option.

Up until this year, I have spent every single seder with you both. Even when I was in the army, I always managed to arrange vacation for the holiday and you flew into Israel so we could spend the holiday together. The idea of sitting at a seder without hearing the songs sung by people other then the two of you is something I really don't think I could handle. I cannot imagine a seder without your Zionist interpretations of the story Abba. And Mommy, who else will whisper back and forth with me about how things are taking too long and we have to speed up?

I remember last year's seder when it was just the three of us at a hotel by the Dead Sea. We discussed that since I was planning to move to Vietnam in December of 2012, that I would have to fly back to Israel for Pesach, 2013so that the whole family could be together for the holiday. It was just so obvious that we would spend the holiday together. I never could have imagined that that would be our last Pesach together.

So, while I know that you would prefer that I would agree to join a different seder this year, I would much rather simply ignore the holiday as best as I can. If I were to go to another seder, I imagine that I would just be sad the entire time and that would not be nice for me or my hosts.

I really miss the both of you very much. Now that I am back in Israel, I still find myself every Friday (including today) anticipating a phone call at 2pm, just like you had done almost every Friday over the last 10 years. I miss talking to you and seeing you. It will never feel normal that you are not around anymore. You will always be missing.

I am about to take a big step in my life when I move to Vietnam in 19 days from now. I know that this was a dream of mine that made you both very apprehensive, but at the same time you supported me because you knew that it was important to me. It is going to be very hard not being able to share this with you.

All I can say is that no matter what happens in my future, I will always be thinking of you both. And I guess that in some twisted, psychological way that will be my way of continuing to share my life with you even though you are gone. It will have to do.

I will love you both forever,


My Parents

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sharp Turn Ahead

I used to have very specific long term dreams. When I was a young teenager, my dream was to move to Israel, join the army and become a career officer. In the end, I moved to Israel, joined the army, realized that I hated every second of being in the army, and dumped the idea of becoming an officer.  My next dream was to go study at a university, get into a graduate program as quickly as possible, and start a career in academia. And of course, the idea of being a successful academic was part of a larger dream of building a life for myself in Israel. In the end, I started my studies as soon as I possibly could, signed up for a joint BA/MA program, learned that I did not enjoy the world of academia and dropped the idea of becoming an academic.And the longer I lived in Israel, the more I realized, I really do not like living in Israel.

Is anyone else noticing a pattern here? Some might say that I am a quitter. I would disagree with them because while I moved on from ideas that no longer made me happy, I never quit. I finished my army service, I finished my schooling and I've lived in Israel for 10 years.

When I used to hear about people that were "trying to find themselves", I would feel very superior. I used to be so sure that I knew who I was and where I wanted to go. What were these "flakes" doing traveling to India or some other seemingly random exotic country to find selves? I always knew who I was, how could someone not know who they are? What did it mean to "find one's self"?

It turns out that I was not superior. Nor did I know myself. Anyone that knows me, or has read this blog knows how true that is. I once thought I was a heterosexual, religious guy. I have since "realized" (grown?) that I am a homosexual, secular guy. I used to be someone who's identity was deeply rooted in Jewish nationalism and I have since realized that I am an intense individualist. I used to be someone with very specific long term dreams. I am now a person that has no idea what I want to do, or where I want to be in the long run.

In 23 days, my 10 and a half years of living in Israel will be coming to an end and I will be moving across Asia to Vietnam. Why? Because I want to (that is the easiest answer). And because I am on a journey to find myself. (I know, I am such a flake!) I am starting a new chapter with the hope that this change will make me happier and that maybe I will learn some more about myself and where where I want to go.

When I started this blog, the main idea was to write about my leaving religion, and my coming out as gay. I chose the name "Off the Path and onto the Road" because it symbolized the orthodox Jewish view of me going astray from the "religious path" and my view of starting to proceed on my own road. Those chapters in my life are over for now and my road is leading to other new adventures.

 While I am sure I will continue to write about religion on occasion, I assume there will be less motivation once I am in Vietnam. I assume that the main focus of my writing will be about being a stranger in a strange land (extra points to those that get the Bible reference) and my continues search for happiness and love. I do hope that my readers that have followed me along my road thus far will continue to follow me as the road takes a drastically different shape. And as always, I am deeply touched by each and every one of you that reads what I have to share. Thank you.