Onward to 2018!

IG: raulfelix275

Eventually, even the hardiest of vagabond’s souls longs for rest, stability, and the familiar. While visiting California for my aunt’s wedding, it really weighed on me how much I missed my friends and family. I had been gone from home for over two years. Most of that time was spent in the picturesque town of Ithaca, New York, a place where I found solace as I worked through my personal demons. After working hard to establish a life there, I burned it all to hell, ditched whatever didn’t fit on my motorcycle, and then traveled randomly around the U.S. until my money started to run out.

The goal was to make it home by Christmas Eve 2016, but snow storms on the I-8 made the night trek through the mountains not only a blisteringly cold affair, but a suicidal one. I was forced to turn back as my family celebrated Christmas Eve. That night I crashed at my Ranger buddy compound in the outskirts of Yuma, Arizona. Rammer’s compound is guarded by eight pit-bulls split into four, two-dog teams who provide three-sixty security. They are divided into four kennels lining the entire perimeter and are constantly rotated in order to keep their alertness up. Effectively preventing Santa Clause from delivering any Christmas cheer.

I made it home Christmas Day, but my family doesn’t do shit on Christmas Day. I rung in 2017 in a dignified manner by getting smashed with my So Cal Ranger buddy’s in Riverside.

The month of January and February would find me couch surfing at my aunts house in Downey. I needed an income. I would ride my motorcycle to the various downtowns of Orange County, Los Angeles, and the Inland Empire hitting up dozens upon dozens of bars and restaurants in search of work. I even hit up the old establishments I used to work at. But all of my efforts were for naught. I had failed to account for the post holidays crash in patronage the restaurant industry experiences. Luckily, my step-dad had random Mexican day-laborer work for me to do that gave me money for gas and food.

Seeing these actions weren’t yielding results, I decided to expedite my future plan: I enrolled in electrician school using my GI Bill. In a last minute scramble, I got all my shit together and signed up for a full course load for the spring semester. I made the rapid transition from responsibility free vagabond/bum to full-time student/bum.

Not liking to be a burden on family, I rented out a room from my Ranger buddy, Dirty Dick, and commuted from Moreno Valley to Long Beach five days a week for school for a month. I also climbed the M Trail on Box Springs Mountain four times that month as I worked out to rebuild the beastly body I lost in those four months of travel and debauchery.

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By April, I got a room to rent at my two best fiends from high school, K-Dawg and Sleazy-E, house in Santa Ana. Determined to do well as a student, I kept myself disciplined about my study habits and ended up with a 3.6 GPA; the highest my dumb ass has ever had. I stayed true to my roots as a womanizer and dated various assortments of white chicks, Latina’s, and cougars.

As spring gave way to summer, I found myself needing a job again to see me through until fall. I wasn’t getting those sweet ol’ GI Bill bucks. With a ridiculous amount of foot work, frustration, dry holes, and following up on every lead I came across, I got myself a bartending job at an Italian restaurant in Newport Beach and a Mexican restaurant in Santa Ana. Thus putting into my pocket that extra bit of cash I needed. Bartending is something I enjoy psychologically because it gives me a social life outside of the my normal group of friends. Plus, I’m a pimp as fuck bartender.

During the fall semester, I moved out of K-Dawg’s and Sleazy-E’s spot and got my own studio apartment in Long Beach. While I loved living with them, there is nothing like having a little box to call your own. It took me longer to create a firm foothold in California than I expected, but I am happy to be back in my hood.

While it’s always in the back of my mind, my writing waned dramatically this year. No real excuses other than it wasn’t a priority for me.

“There’s nothing to stop a man from writing
unless that man stops himself.
If a man truly desires to write,
then he will.
Rejection and ridicule will only strengthen him.
and the longer he is held back
the stronger he will become,
like a mass of rising
water against a dam.”
-Charles Bukowski

Yet, the yearning for artistic expression builds up inside of me. When I started writing this blog in March of 2012, I was a twenty-five year-old security contractor in Israel. I had no idea where it was going to lead when I started it.

It has been something that has followed me through the different lives I’ve lived since then.

It has helped keep my sanity and make sense of the challenges I’ve faced professionally and personally as I tried to make it in this world.

It has helped me develop and grow not only as a man, but as a human being.

It has given me something to constantly work on and improve upon.

It has helped keep me accountable for my actions and values.

The beauty of writing is that as you evolve, it evolves. There is no finish line, only the next line. That is both daunting and liberating. Daunting because it never ends. Liberating because your skills have limitless potential. The potential is the fuel that will see you through the drudgery of it all. Even then, you must continue to prove yourself time and again.

Thank you, dear reader, for your support throughout years. I look forward to writing more of my heartwarmingly-fucked up pieces that you’ve come to hate and adore. Onward to 2018!

~Raul Felix

Read: 30 Things I Learned By Age 30
Read: Onward to 2016!
Read: Why Young Men Should Become Cougar Slayers

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Two Army Rangers Discuss Going Nomadic

IG: leo_jenkins

IG: leo_jenkins

In the formative years of his life, Leo Jenkins was an Army combat medic in 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Having completed deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, in 2007 Leo ended his enlistment after four years of service, exchanging the high-octane world of Army special operations for the uncertainty of civilian life.

He has published three memoirs. In the first, Lest We Forget, he details his war experiences and drunken shenanigans as a Ranger medic. In his second, On Assimilation, he tackles the emotional rollercoaster of adapting to civilian life. His journey takes him from the kick-in-the-gut realization that his intensive training as a special operations medic wouldn’t qualify him to be a basic EMT…to battling alcoholism and feeling of isolation caused by those moments spent in a wartorn land…to opening and operating a successful CrossFit gym.

In his latest book, First Train Out Of Denver, Leo decides to leave the hustle and bustle that had become his life to go nomadic instead. With the utmost sense of purpose and intensity that is a definitive characteristic of an Army Ranger, he seeks to find adventure, enlightenment, and to make sense of those formative years of his life.

Raul Felix: Leo, your life as an unemployed vagabond started when you got up to go to work one morning and thought to yourself, “I don’t want to go to work today.” You then sold your possessions, business, said goodbye to your friends, and got yourself a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. What was the toughest part emotionally for you of that process?

Leo Jenkins: That is a phenomenal question that no one has ever asked me. I was in a dark place when I purged my possessions and took to the world. I was seeking some sort of solace in the comforts of solitude. By disconnecting myself from the only people who share my mutual experiences, I was forced into intense introspection. It’s a perilous endeavor if one is not prepared. Seven years of stuffing down the tumultuous cognitive dissonance created by multiple combat deployments violently surfaced, and there wasn’t another veteran, let alone Ranger, for thousands of miles. I was forced to sit in my own stewing antipathy alone. I was forced to truly come to terms with my youthful decisions and transgressions against my fellow man. It nearly killed me, but I’m a better man for it.

Raul Felix: What do you mean by it almost killed you?

Leo Jenkins: With no set schedule and no real responsibilities, I began drinking heavily. I began writing the book On Assimilation during this time. I was pulling up all the tribulations of my return to society and writing them down. I was alone, reliving my worst moments in vivid detailed prose.

Raul Felix: Just like being in the Army, traveling has a learning curve that can only be learned by actually doing it. What are some stupid cherry traveler mistakes and assumptions you made in the early phases of your trip, and what solutions did you come up with?

Leo Jenkins: Not everyone values what we value as a society. Traveling to any foreign country is an opportunity to shut up and listen, not to impose your belief set. Be a sponge and retain as much as you can. Release as much of your preconceived ethnocentric tendencies before getting on the plane, and almost everything else will come with ease.

The world is not a dark and scary place. Sure, there are assholes abroad, just like there are assholes in your hometown. Chances are, they’re just having a bad day and do not represent the ideology of their entire country. However, when entering their nation you become an ambassador for ours. So if you act like an asshole, the assumption will be that everyone from your country is [also an asshole], due to their potentially limited exposure to your nationality.

On a more specific note, don’t ever exchange currency at the airport; they will rip you off worse than the new Ghostbusters movie. Research the exchange rate ahead of time then hit the ATM. A lot of countries will take US dollars, but every shop will pound you on the exchange rate.

Raul Felix: When Marty Skovlund and yourself began doing your trip Eastbound to raise money for the Gallant Few, you tapped into your social media network of veterans. This dramatically increased the pace of your trip and raised awareness for your cause. Who was the coolest or most unique veteran you met in this manner?

Leo Jenkins: I’ve had the distinct honor of interviewing veterans all across the world regarding their experiences in war and assimilation. While Marty and my fundraiser across the world to raise awareness and funds for the Gallant Few provided me the opportunity to get to know many amazing war fighters, I’d have to say our conversation with a particular Korean War veteran and former UDT diver (predecessor to the Navy SEALs) was a standout. His narrative of war was equal parts adolescent inquisitiveness for the world, tragedy, and the dark profane humor of a salty special-operations soldier. Shrouded by a leathered face, his eyes told the story with the razor-blade poignancy of a young warrior. And his words regarding the separation, the isolation, following combat rang like a church bell through the ardor of my being.

Raul Felix: Aren’t you pissed off you got assigned to 3rd Batt instead of 2nd Batt?

Leo Jenkins: 3rd Batt was actually my fourth choice. At the end of the special operations medical course, each of the six Ranger medics graduating with my class were asked to list, in order, where they wanted to go. My list went, 1st (cause the beach), then 2nd (because the mountains), Regiment (because I already had a bunch of medic friends working there) and finally 3rd. To be honest, I was pissed at first, but the journey connected me with some of the most inspiring and amazing men of our generation. I wouldn’t trade those relationships for anything.

Raul Felix: In the past, you made your name known for your military articles and books. What made you make the shift from military writer to travel adventure writer?

Leo Jenkins: I believe vehemently in the necessity of evolution throughout the course of life, to expand and contract and flow with the natural fluidity of a river. It’s taken a decade since leaving 3rd Ranger Battalion, and in many ways my experiences there will always influence my writings, but being who we are, not who we once were, is the acme of a free and jubilant soul.

Raul Felix: I agree with that. Human beings are human beings everywhere you go. It’s easy to think X or Y people are bad because the narrative the media portrays of them. If you weren’t an American, what nationality that you encountered could you see yourself growing up and fitting in with?

Leo Jenkins: I’m often asked if I’m a Canadian when traveling through foreign countries for various reasons. My fiancée is Canadian and I do associate with their culture in many ways. I’ve even been told to tell people I am so as to not provoke the negative connotations associated with being an American abroad. I don’t do that; I will never do that. I am proud of where I come from because I know firsthand how many truly amazing people come from the US. I’m as welcome to external cultural experience as any human on Earth, but I’m simultaneously unapologetically American.

~Raul Felix

Read: 3 Signs A Woman Is A Dependopotamus
Read: Army Rangers Talk About The Times Their Words Have Shocked Civilians
Read: Jumping Out of Airplanes: How It’s Really Like

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4 Things That Are Awesome About Riding A Motorcycle

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Despite the possibility of getting killed by an absentminded undergrad who is Snapchatting herself singing along to the latest hit pop song as she makes a left turn while you’re crossing the intersection, causing you to hit the side of her car at 45MPH, riding a motorcycle is pretty damn sweet. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a speed demon going nearly twice the speed limit on a crotch rocket with no intention of pulling over if the cops chase you because if you get one more ticket you’ll get your license suspended…or a grizzled biker covering vast distances on a tight time hack with several of your brothers on cruisers…or a cute liberal chick or skinny gay guy on a Vespa putt-putting about town…the thrill of the ride is incomparable to those who decide to forgo the cage-like safety of the car, even if just for the weekend. Why is that? Because there are many reasons why a rider’s life is way more awesome.

1. Kids Are Crazy About You

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IG: raulfelix275

Remember when you were a kid and you would see a motorcycle passing by on the freeway? Maybe your mom would comment on how dangerous they are. You didn’t care because the cool guys on TV rode the shit out of them, wearing badass leather jackets, jeans, and sticking it to the man. You’ll fantasize about being one of those dudes when you got older as you played with your Hot Wheels and always had the motorcycle do insane stunts that defied the laws of physics as it was shooting its machine gun.

Many years down the line, you are at a red light thinking about how much of a total badass you are ’cause you’re finally on a motorcycle. A car pulls up next to you and out of the corner of your eye you see a hand flailing. You look to your right and in the backseat you see a kid seven or eight years old waving at you with a missing-tooth smile. You wave back at him and he starts laughing. You rev the throttle a bit and he goes ape shit from excitement. The light turns green and you speed away.

Kids love motorcycles, plain and simple. Whenever you make appearances to any family event, all the little kids are going to see your bike and want to sit on it. You will be one of the cool grown-ups, not one of those who drives a soul-crushing minivan.

 

2. Chicks Dig You, Too

As much as it may frighten them, few things are more effective at drenching the panties of a female than a man who rides a motorcycle well. It’s not as simple as getting your ass on a bike and going to places where girls hang. First, you must prove that you aren’t some idiot who is going to try to impress her by riding dangerously. You must recognize that riding on the backseat is quite intimate. She is signaling: I trust you with my life. Sadly, a lot of men these days aren’t capable of handling that sort of responsibility.

Also, the seat positioning will have her body in constant contact with yours. Most chicks aren’t willing to do that with whatever chode on two wheels, either. Only after gaining her respect and trust will you be able to get her to take a ride with you. As the ride happens, the breeze in her face, the revving of the engine as you twist the throttle, and the utter freedom of it all will make her lady parts tingly. Don’t forget the vibrations of the engine, too. You’ve displayed your competence as a man.

Riding a motorcycle is not something that can be done by any random dude. Thousands of people—even long-time riders—kill themselves each year on bikes. But the fact that you ride one puts you in the niche class of “bad boy” that nearly every woman has a few sultry fantasies about.

 

3. You Instantly Have A Connection With Fellow Riders

 

IG: raulfelix275

IG: raulfelix275

Men form bonds by sharing knowledge and conducting activities together. Riding a motorcycle is one of the manliest hobbies in modern times. A man on a motorcycle represents the images of glory reminiscent of galloping knights and cowboys on horseback—as opposed to the simplicity of driving a cage that requires no more from you other than grabbing your keys and hopping in the driver’s seat.

Mounting your iron steed has the aura of prepping for combat. You look at the weather report and adjust the amount of cold weather gear you’ll need to wear. You put on your vest, grab your helmet, gloves, and glasses. You approach your baby waiting for you in her spot.

“Hello, beautiful,” you say.

You fire her up to warm her up a bit while you don your protective gear. You give her a quick little rev to make sure she purrs all right. She does. Away you go.

If you can relate to this feeling, then you’re a fellow motorcycle rider. You get it; others don’t. That’s why you always have an immediate connection with those who also ride. You’ll make small talk with fellow bikers and make friends with fellow bikers. And at times, you party hard as fuck with fellow bikers.

 

4. There Is No Better Way To Travel

 

MC4

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The world is a gorgeous place. We become immune to the wonder of it all during the routine of our daily lives. Yet when you’re on a motorcycle, you can’t help but notice. You feel everything…the feeling of needles poking your face when you’re riding through rain at 80MPH…the blazing furnace that is Arizona…the smell of countryside…the fresh breeze. Everything, good or bad, is a part of your journey. Back to our primal roots, before the windshield and air-conditioning of the cage shielded us from it all.

I’ve traveled a vast majority the United States at some point or another on my motorcycle. I’ve also ridden it to Mexico and Canada. I rented one for three weeks and traveled the whole of Italy. I had one as my sole means of transportation for a year and half last time I lived in Cali. I ride one now when it’s not snowing or freezing over in Upstate New York.

It’s a wondrous love affair. Every journey feels like an adventure, like that rare lover you can share you life with. Whether to the neighborhood bar to have a beer or across the country, the saddle of a motorcycle puts you closer to the elements and the world.

~Raul Felix

Read:29 Things I Learned By Age 29
Read: The Gay Meth Story
Read: 6 Things I Learned About Israel While Living and Working There

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4 Things That Security Contractors Love To Spend Their Money On

The Global War on Terror has offered unique career opportunities for American veterans that past wars have not. The US military’s inability to recruit enough troops to fill the mission requirements in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other sites throughout the world has created the need to hire private security contracting firms.

Being a private military contractor allows a combat veteran to grab some of those big bucks that are usually reserved for those in the upper echelon or technical side of the military-industrial complex. Since well-paying jobs on the home front are hard to come by, it makes perfect sense for a man who was willing to fight in a foreign land for less than $20,000 a year to become a shooter for a six-figure income. If you’re one of these men, you come back with quite a bit of money in your pocket after doing a contract or six. How should you go about spending it?

1. Getting a sweet ride.

Now that you’ve spent a few of the best years of your life in a shithole country being the personal security for some faceless executives of Tax Payer Money Funnel Incorporated, you’re ready to live out your own dreams—unless you’re a closet hipster who has wet dreams about owning a Prius, which signals to the world you’re trendy, environmentally conscious, and gay. It will include one or all of the following: a truck, a badass sports car, or a motorcycle.

You’ve been stalking the vehicle that catches your fancy for months. Checking out every color and trim variations. Deciding which features and extras you must have: sound systems, limo tint, grills, and lift kits. You know what? Fuck it! Just murder that motherfucker out. Should you put 24s on it? You fantasize of cruising down an open highway with your hands in between the thighs of a hot brunette sitting in the passenger seat in a tank top who is barely able to contain her breasts and singing along to the latest Taylor Swift hit single because you’re confident enough in your heterosexuality to listen to pop music without irony.

You’re finally able to strut into a dealership like an OG gangster with cold, hard cash. You’re not playing any games; you’re getting the car you want.

“I have $XX,XXX cash,” you say to the shady salesman who is eager to take as much of your money as possible. “You will give me this car, at this price.” He’ll then try to swindle you by saying they don’t give special cash discounts. You’ll then be like, “Hey Broseph, I ain’t no dumb private just out of Basic that you can financially rape with your 18.99% APR loan you’re able to secure through a subprime lender because I got a secure job in the military. I’ve been contracting and doing my research. You’re going to give me the car I want, with the specs I want, in the color I want, and at this fucking price.” You then drive away with a gangster lean in your car because you just dick-slapped the dealership.

2. Taking a vacation that fully indulges your vices.

Sure, your friends and family back home will be eager to see you and have missed you dearly. But if you have learned anything from your years when you were in the military, it’s that being home on leave is pretty lame after two or three days. All your friends and family are doing their own thing. Even if you do show back up, you’re not really going to see them more than once or twice. Why sit around in your hometown where not much has changed when you can take a trip to a foreign place where the foreigners aren’t trying to kill you?

Wolf Of Wall Street

Wolf Of Wall Street

If Hollywood and music videos have taught us anything is that it’s standard operating procedure to celebrate your newfound riches with scantly clad women in an exotic location while snorting mountains of coke and popping piles of Viagra to combat chronic erectile dysfunction. However, since you’ve spent the last few months around men, your game with females may have suffered. No worries; the time-honored profession of prostitution is there to make sure you have someone who will pretend to care about you for the allotted amount of time that you have bought her. Make sure to hide your drugs.

Perhaps you’re not the hookers-and-blow type. Perhaps you’re the drinking copious amounts of alcohol, brooding by your lonesome, thinking to yourself how everyone in the bar seems like a pussy and you miss hanging around real men, awkwardly hitting on chicks, and then falling asleep as you jack off type. No matter; you’ll have a way better time in foreign places where your American brutishness will be considered a cultural flaw rather than a personal one.

An extravagant vacation may not give you any tangible assets, but it will give you life experiences. Think of all those stories you’ll be able to tell while you’re pulling security at your next contracting gig to break up the monotony of everyone bitching about who they think are total cocksuckers on the contract and bragging about how hard they were back when they were in the military.

3. Embracing your right to bear arms.

You can’t spend all your money on cool toys, travel, drugs, and hookers; you need to be an adult and make a responsible investment. A gun is an asset that assures the security of the rest of your assets. It insures that any person who intrudes upon your person or property will get two in the chest and one in the head.

As much as freedom haters will protest, gun ownership is your right as an American. You risked your life for this country not just selflessly in your military service, but for personal profit when you became a mercenary—I mean, a security contractor. You’re the embodiment of patriotism and capitalism, two major principles in our mighty nation.

Now it’s also crucial that you just not have enough to arm yourself, but everyone in your household, and two or three of your closest friends. When Obama causes a nuclear holocaust, currency won’t be stocks or deeds, but weapons and ammo.

4. Getting yourself out of the rat race.

OK, you’ve blown your money from your previous contracts, but this time you’ve learned your lesson. You can’t keep on deploying anymore. You hate being away from your wife/girlfriend, kids, or dog. You need to figure out how to make your money work for you, not the other way around. While the pay is great, this isn’t a long-term career. You have to make plans for the future on the off chance that the zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen.

You’ve sacrificed and put a lot at risk for the opportunity you have now. You can use your money to start that business you’ve always wanted to start. Or invest in real estate to create a steady stream of income. Or learn a new skill set that actually has a market in the US.

You earned the money; whatever you do with it is up to you. You’ve been broke before and now you’ve gotten a taste of what making real money feels like. You know having money is awesome and it allows you to buy the things and experiences that make you happy to be alive. But it’s also a trap to keep you coming back for more and more. With a little smarts and a bit of luck, you can figure out how to have a sustainable income instead of being caught in the up-and-down cycles of being contractor-rich.

~Raul Felix

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6 Things I Learned About Israel While Living and Working There

Living abroad seems to be on the bucket list of nearly every twenty-something who is on the road to self-discovery. There is this urge to get away from the safety, familiarity, and security of our homeland and go to another place with a different culture and language. I got the opportunity to live and work in Israel a couple of years ago. I went there not knowing much about the country other than that Muslim extremists hate them, but they hate everything, so their opinion is worthless to me. During my time in Israel, I learned a lot about that wonderful land’s customs and quirks.

1. Shawarmas Stuffed With French Fries Are Delicious

I’m not a foodie of any sort. I don’t know shit about spices, herbs, textures, nor about any of those adjectives food connoisseurs use when describing fine delicacies. But my taste buds are refined enough to taste the difference between good, OK, and totally disgusting. One of the staples of my diet was the shawarmas stuffed with French fries that I told the street vendors to make extra-spicy. They were delicious and were one of the few items that could fill me up with only one serving. Before I got there, I had no idea what hummus was, but once I tried it I was in love with it. My girlfriend and I would often go to eat at her parents’ house for Shabbat dinner. The whole family and their friends would gather together. There were the world-famous Israeli salads, but I’m a man and I like dead animals, so all of my attention to went to foods such as Cholent, St. Peter’s fish, lamb kebab, shish taouk, and shashlik. There was also a wide variety of chicken-based foods with carrots and peas that had a flavor I never have tasted anywhere else.

Israeli versions of other cultures’ food were hit-and-miss. They had “Mexicani” food, which was supposed to be authentic Mexican burritos but never tasted like real burritos although they were delicious nonetheless. Sushi and Italian dishes were as popular there as they are anywhere else. In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem there was a restaurant called Mike’s Place that specialized in American-style food and was a popular hangout for Americans aching to get some food that reminded us of home.

2. Jerusalem Doesn’t Have Strip Clubs

I lived in a medium-sized city in the Negev Desert called Be’er Sheva. Thanks to Ben-Gurion University providing an influx of students, there was a vibrant nightlife considering how small and remote the city is. Bars were the main gathering place for my coworkers and me. From my impression, Israelis aren’t big drinkers like Americans, or at least they don’t get drunk, wild, and out of control like we do. We would go to a bar at 10PM and be the only patrons there as we drank Gold Star, Tuborg, and Carlsberg. They have a hard alcohol known as Arak, which I avoided after my first taste of it. Israelis operate on something known as “Israeli Time” and are ridiculously late to everything. All of a sudden at 11:30PM there would be a huge crowd of people at the bar. Then at 1AM, everyone would be gone with us Americans still drinking ourselves into oblivion.

Jerusalem had a better and more intimate nightlife than Tel Aviv, but Tel Aviv had strip clubs while they were nonexistent in Jerusalem. If you wanted to go to bars where you could actually hang out, talk, and get drunk with your friends and everything was within walking distance, Jerusalem was the spot. If you wanted to go out to the beach, get drunk, get some titties in your face (the strippers actually let you grab their tits), go to clubs with loud music and dancing, and maybe score some drugs or a prostitute, Tel Aviv was the spot. The drawback there was that everything was spread out, so you would have to take taxis to go bar-hopping.

3. Attacks From The Gaza Strip Are Part Of Life

One night I was out for a run when I heard a siren go off. I wasn’t sure what I was hearing and thought to myself, “Did my iPod just change to an N.W.A song?” I stopped and looked around, searching for an ambulance or a police car. All I saw was one car pulling over and a person running toward a building. I took off my headphones and noticed the sirens were coming from everywhere. Then I heard a missile launch and looked up to see the trail. A couple of seconds later, I heard an explosion. That’s when I realized the Iron Dome had shot down a rocket coming from the Gaza Strip. I posted on my Facebook a status along the lines of, “I guess Gaza sent a harassment rocket.” One of my Israeli friends commented, “Welcome to Be’er Sheva.” That’s when I learned that random rocket attacks were a fact of life in the southern cities. They would never make the international news because they would only send a couple every month or two.

Rocket attacks became a spectacle for us. My roommate and I would hear the siren and run to the rooftop so we could see the Iron Dome intercept it. After the siren stopped, people would go back to their routine.

In November 2012 the Israeli Defense Force launched operation Pillar of Defense, which kicked off with the killing of Ahmed Jabari, a chief of the Gaza military wing of Hamas. After that, the rockets started and didn’t stop. Every thirty minutes, the siren would go off, and you would hear the explosions as they landed in the streets or the Iron Dome intercepted them. At first it seemed pretty fucking cool. Rocket attacks had been seen as a nuisance rather than a legitimate threat, since either the Iron Dome intercepted them or they landed in the middle of the desert. Then three people got killed by one while they were on their balcony. That’s when my girlfriend put her foot down and wouldn’t allow me to go up and see the action anymore.

4. It’s Expensive As Fuck

One of my Israeli friends told me a joke: “In Israel, the Jews Jew the Jews.” Here in California I could spend $200 in groceries and be set for a month; over there, that would last me a week, maybe two. I was told that people there work 12 hours a day, six days a week merely to get by. The government loves to tax everything so they can fund the IDF. You’re never quite sure how much you’re being taxed because the taxes are already worked into the price.

5. People Don’t Wait In Line

Whenever you would board a bus or a train, it would become a shoving match. After a while I learned how to out-shove everyone. Tiny women are tricky, though; they’ll squeeze beneath you and go ahead of you. They’d do it so quickly that you wouldn’t even realize it until they were ahead of you.

6. I Only Learned A Few Phrases Of Hebrew, But I Wish I’d Learned More

I never learned more than a few phrases of Hebrew. It’s an irrelevant language anywhere else in the world, but I had an opportunity to learn it and never cared enough to do all the work needed to learn more. I think it would have been a cool little skill to have in my pocket, because knowing random little things like that is always a good thing.

I also didn’t study much of the region’s history while I was there. I researched more about it after I moved back to the US. Instead of just going to museums and cities looking at pretty things, I would have understood what exactly those pretty things were and what they meant in historical context. I would have had a firmer understanding of the complex relationship between Israel and the Arab League instead of the oversimplified version the American media conveys.

I hold my time in Israel close and dear to my heart. I lived in debauchery a lot during my time there. I found a woman I truly loved and lost her. I made some good American and Israeli friends. I traveled and saw nearly everything there is to see. I made some good money and came back to the US in a better position. It may the Jews’ homeland, but it will always be a second home to this American.

~Raul Felix

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The Harsh Realities of Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) has become an option for many disillusioned recent college grads when they realize their Humanities degree is not that high in demand. You can qualify to be a TEFL teacher with nearly any type of degree. You will fantasize about how you’re going to enlighten foreign minds, but like anything else, reality will set in. Luckily for you, English Teacher X is a salty-as-fuck veteran of this mysterious world. He has written several books and been blogging about it since 2005.

Raul: English Teacher X, you’ve been TEFL for 15+ years now. What’s the biggest difference you see now between new, cherry English teachers and when you were a newbie in the 90s?

ETXEnglish Teacher X: Of course, there are a lot more people doing it now in general, but surprisingly, I don’t see that much difference. Still plenty of middle-aged whoremongers/wife-hunters, plenty of young backpacker types, and plenty of clueless youngsters in search of a Real Authentic Cultural Experience. You’d think there’d be fewer clueless people with the Internet and all, but there are still plenty of wide-eyed innocents, many of whom end up ripped off but with a few interesting stories to tell the folks when they go back to working at the Cheesecake Factory. One thing you see a lot more of these days is middle-aged women getting into it for a midlife career change after a divorce or whatever. Eat, Pray, Love syndrome. My friend in Dubai says he sees a lot of them, and a friend in Peru says the same thing. They’re often also looking for romance—men are not the only ones unhappy with the dating situation back home.

Raul: What kind of “Authentic Cultural Experience” do most of the youngsters look for, and what is the harsh reality?

ETX

English Teacher X: Oh, you know, the usual—they think they’re going to learn the language and befriend the locals and such and go to traditional ceremonies and such, but they generally find that the only people who want to speak with them either just want to practice their English or rip them off somehow. Or have sex with them, maybe.

Raul: You spent nine years in Russia from 2000-2009 in an industrial wasteland you’ve named “Vodkaberg.” Russia changed quite a bit since those days. You mentioned that the same Vodkaberg doesn’t exist anymore. What changes have occurred?

ETXEnglish Teacher X: Oh, man, well, it’s pretty much a 180-degree shift. When I got there, they loved foreigners, especially Americans and Europeans, and everybody loved to drink and smoke and party, and people were very cynical about work and the government. Everybody was extremely sexed-up, and there was a lot of prostitution going on. People had very little hope for the future. There was very much an atmosphere of “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Now, shit, it’s like the Reagan 80s. First there were a lot of rules limiting alcohol consumption—no more drinking on the streets, can’t buy alcohol after eleven, can’t drink on trains, etc. Then depictions of homosexuality in the media. With the Ukraine thing, Putin has stirred up the patriots and the nationalists, and even one of my slutty, foreigner-loving female friends there was lecturing me last night on Skype about how everything in the American media about Russia is a lie. People want to work hard to get the Toyota Corolla and the iPhone. People do take care of their health a lot more, though, I guess, which is a good thing. I read yesterday that Putin is banning some of the Russki mat—curse words—from movies, theater, and TV. He seems to be trying to create a Puritan republic in response to the excesses of the 90s and early 00s. Oh, and in addition to that, to show the attitude of Russians recently—a friend and I were trying to talk to some Russian girls in Dubai last week and one of them told us, “I don’t talk to Americans anymore because of the international situation.”

Raul: Damn, so Russia is losing its unique Russian ghetto charm; what a shame. Where could a young, hopeful, future TEFL type go to get the same crazy social atmosphere as was prevalent in Vodkaberg during your stint there?

ETXEnglish Teacher X: Of course, your social life is what you make of it and anybody going to Eastern Europe can probably find enough alcohol and sex and general wackiness to satisfy them. But the kind of blind worship of foreigners—that’s hard to find these days. You’d need to go someplace that has endured a long period of isolationism and protectionism. North Korea, Cuba, Belarus. Just in general, the kind of places that are experiencing the sort of rapid economic growth and social change that Russia experienced during the 00s are places in the Middle East, and I hear people talking about places like Turkey, Ethiopia, and Lebanon a lot. Recently somebody sent me an email asking where the best place to go to have that experience would be and I answered, “Just go anywhere that people tell you not to go because it’s too dangerous.” I remember buying the train ticket to Russia back in 2000, and the women at the train station in Prague told me I was crazy; they would kill me. They didn’t, although not for want of trying.

Raul: Any random advice for any aspiring TEFLers?

ETXEnglish Teacher X: Well, I was thinking today that while TEFL is not much of a career choice, it probably combines well with your various possibilities for “location independent” jobs like freelance writing or running an eBay store or an affiliate site or whatever. As a teacher you’ll probably have enough free time to work on something like that, but you’ll always have something to do to meet people or to fall back on if your Internet job punks out for some reason.

~Raul Felix

Check out more of my writing at Thought Catalog