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Middle East Jasmine Dispatch

Where's Jazzy?
February 2,2000

There are some things your Mom teaches you when you're young that stick with you as you grow into adulthood. Like how to tie your shoes, brush your teeth and share with friends. Then there are those things we pick up and learn on our own: the difference between friends and acquaintances for example. As an Odyssey World Trekker a lot of those lessons have come into play over the past five months. Our ever-changing worlds range the spectrum of lifestyle and environment. But like most of life's lessons it's hard to appreciate the lesson when it's being taught. I knew I was learning and growing all this time but it took a trip back home to see how much I had really changed. Yep, I said it, a trip back home. I haven't seen my friends or family since July of 1999, almost six months ago. Thanks to my mom and her dear friend Mr. Clyde Benson, I had the best Christmas present ever --time with the people I love!

After an afternoon of meeting, eating and misty-eyed good-byes in Tel Aviv, I bid farewell to my fellow trekkers and gave my last hugs to Kevin, Tamar and Abeja who dropped me off at the Ben Gurion International Airport. Trekker life is a hectic and busy life. We're constantly on the move and despite the fact that I had known this day was coming since late during our stay in Egypt, it hadn't sunk in until now. Standing on the curb at the airport, waving goodbye to my teammates, I was heading back to familiarity, a place I know, a place where I understand the language spoken, a developed world of busy freeways and my grandmas homecookin'...a place called home.

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Me and my mom!
I was greeted by my Uncle Sam and my baby sister Elizabeth at the Los Angeles International Airport, not far from my hometown in Compton, California. Smiles, big grins, warm hugs, and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, baked just for me, brought joyous tears to my eyes. It wasn't fantasy, or a beautiful dream. I was wide-awake and it was as real as it gets--I was really home! My mom snuck out of her office (ssssh don't tell) and rushed to my grandma's house to see her baby girl. After camping with desert nomads in a sandy Timbuktu, and living on a pinasse for several days on the Niger, she wasn't quite sure what to expect. She came into the den to find me swapping stories with Poppy, my grandfather, and eagerly interrupted to get her hugs. She looked me up and down, turned me around, and nodded. I guess that meant I cleared inspection and all systems were go.

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Ringing in Christmas at the Hamlett household!
Most of my family and friends knew I was coming home, but there were a few who were in for big surprises since they didn't expect me back for another year (at least). I tiptoed into my boyfriend's downtown office and he almost fell out of his chair to see me walk in. I snuck into the Christmas play rehearsal at my church, which caused a small interruption as everyone ran through their lines. So much so that the director paused the scene and had everyone in unison welcome me home. Then there was my god sister, Havonnah, who had just come home from college. She was expecting me to splurge and call her from Israel, since email has been our only means of communication since I left. Instead, I surprised her with a knock on her door and she exploded with hugs from every direction.

During my stay we celebrated Christmas, a big to-do on both sides of the Family. My father's mother celebrates her birthday on Christmas Eve. But the fun doesn't stop there. Not only is it Jesus' birthday, it is Honey's birthday too! My grandmother was a precious gift to her Mommy, Bessie Edwards on Christmas day in 19?? (she still won't tell) and she's even more precious to us today. These two matriarchs of our families have instilled a strong sense of solidarity in the Jenkins and the Hamlett Families. So we always try to make Christmas a special time to appreciate one another, the love we share and the importance of sticking together. As a matter of fact, that theme flowed nicely into our Kwaanza celebration. Kwaanza is an African-American Celebration that begins the day after Christmas and lasts for seven days. Each night we light a candle on the ankara and discuss the principle of the day. The first principle is Umoja or unity - the importance of oneness in the family and as a race.

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Outstanding Odyssey officemates! Jasmine with Genesis, Jeff and Karina.
While home, I took a few short excursions. The first one was to Santa Barbara to visit my stateside Odyssey teammates, Jeff, Genesis and Karina. They are a part of the team that makes sure what we write is coherent (even when we aren't) and gets up on the site for all of you to enjoy and learn from. We spent a few relaxing days by sunny beaches, under beautiful sunsets wishing the others could be here with us when, before you know it, our time was up too. After we said our goodbyes and I shuttled back to LA, I eventually made my way to Arkansas to see more family there. To my amazement my new baby brother was walking and almost talking. He was not quite a year old yet when I left, just a small thing all bundled up in his crib. Now he's terrorizing the fish in my nephews new fish tank and giving my step-mom a run for her money.

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The New Year exploded onto the world and what a time of excitement and surprises. Los Angeles was surprisingly quiet. People uncertain about what Y2K had in store played it safe and stayed indoors. My family was no different. We watched the countdown all over the world via CNN and I wondered where Monica, Kevin, Abeja, and Kavitha were, hoping they knew my heart was with them. My father even surprised me and came in from out of town to spend the countdown with his " Spooters" (that's me). My boyfriend Guy and I took the opportunity to start the New Year off in a truly exciting way. Let's just say we almost headed to Las Vegas! We've been together almost three years now, but instead of a rush wedding we decided on a year-long engagement while I finish trekking. It will go by fast and I'll have a little incentive to do my best and get home quickly.


spectrum - a broad sequence or range of related qualities, ideas, or activities
unison - together
matriarch - a woman who rules a family, clan, or tribe
excursion - a short journey made for pleasure; an outing
coherent - consistent; logical
incentive - something, such as the fear of punishment or the expectation of reward, that motivates you.
embark - begin

The last week and a half at home whizzed by. A few difficult times arose but it was nice to see family pull together. It's often in the tests of life that we are able to gauge our strengths and weaknesses and just to see how much we've learned along the way. So while my days in Southern California weren't all sunny and bright I was able to appreciate life's rains--without them we could not grow. I spent time with loved ones and appreciated the importance of the bond we share. I said goodbye to friends, some that I'll see again soon. And I prepared to say goodbye to others, like Kevin who is concluding the trek in Israel to begin a new chapter in his life. Take care Kevin...near or far you're always in my heart--all the best!

All in all, I've entered into this new millennium fully aware of life's meaning, not knowing where it all leads, but excited to embark on the next leg of its journey. And through the Odyssey we can continue to experience it all together--new teammates in new countries for new adventures. Andrew and Brian await us in Turkey, Let's Go!


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

Monica - Home is where the Heart-ache is…
Monica - Suffering in Your Daily Life, the Dheisheh Refugee Camp
Abeja - It Says Right Here: Israeli Settlers Cite the Bible as Their Source
Abeja - Interview with a Terrorist?
Abeja - May Palestine Find Peace
Team - Meeting the Challenges? The Israeli-Syrian Peace Negotiations
Kavitha - Kavi Gets MAD With Art

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