_ I walk down the street with my 20 pound backpack strapped to my shoulders, obediently following the map in my hands, but it keeps leading me astray. Apparently, street names don't translate properly from Hebrew to English and this is not the first time I have been left direction-less in Tel Aviv. Despite my minor detour and slight irritation with the failure of my normal GPS engrained brain, this isn't the worst place to be lost.

Established in the early 1900s, Tel Aviv is anything but antique. This city boasts streets cluttered with swanky clubs and student filled coffee houses and is well known for its perpetual nightlife and fine dining. Through my bout of disorientation I am still thoroughly enjoying the scenery and making a mental list of cute cafes and hummus stands to return to during my stay in the city.

I finally make it to my host, Itay's apartment. Although we have never met, Itay welcomes me with open arms and gives me just enough time to dismantle my backpack before we're off to meet his friends for hummus. Eating hummus, falafel, and, well any kind of Middle Eastern food in the Middle East with locals is a real treat.

Three months ago I didn’t think lunch outings with ten strangers from a foreign country would be anywhere remotely close to my comfort zone. Not that I'm antisocial or anything, I just don’t like the pressure of being the only foreigner amongst a mirage of locals. If anything is fact, traveling changes a person a whole lot and hanging out with unknowns is my new hobby, not to mention the norm in Israel.

The Israelis greet me as if we've known each other for years; a kiss on the cheek and ten questions about my adventures. They are eager to tell me the best food to order and give me a brief lesson in the history of falafel and hummus eating 101.

We exchange dialogue for hours. They are well traveled, humorous, up to par on world current events and already making plans to introduce me to their friend who lives in Haifa or scribble a list of the best shwarma stands in Jaffa. Lucky for me, their openness is perfect for my undercover mission in Israel: to glean information about Palestine and Middle Eastern politics.

By the end of our lunch date I feel so informed about Israeli news, I could write a small novel or argumentative essay. I also have a drink date with Yoav and friends in Jerusalem, a place to stay if I ever pass through Beersheba and a prospective travel buddy for Nepal. I love the locals.
 



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