Well the time has come to make changes in my life once again. Staying here on the kibbutz has become more of a burden for my mental health than it is worth in the friendships I have here. So when I returned from my trip to Germany, I decided to move to Jerusalem. I went up there for a few days 2 weeks ago and have a solid game plan. I should have my first sublet apartment finalized in the next week. During that month (late March -late April), I’ll find a job in the first week, and then spend the next 3 weeks finding another sublet until June. And starting in July, a friend of mine (who is living in Jerusalem already) and I will move into a new place together. I am excited to be back in a city with options for culture, dining, and just fresh new faces. I’m also excited about going back to working front desk (or management if I am able to) at some kind of real hotel. I have committed to myself that I won’t settle for anything that isn’t front desk or higher. No more housekeeping for me thank you.
Life in Israel is also strangely normal now. The long bus rides between cities. The yelling and shouting over normal things. Even the security situation is just kind of an interesting experience during the normal daily routine.
For instance, during that previously mentioned trip to J’lem: I had spent the morning at a queer community center trying to get a better understanding of the things I will need to know when I move there. When I finished, I didn’t have any plans so I called my mother as I walked around the city center looking for a lunch place. I stopped at a corner pizza joint, ate my two slices and just started walking all while still on the phone. When my mother and I finished our conversation, I realized I had made my way the short distance from the modern city center to the walls of the Old City. I was half way between 2 of the 9 ways into the Old City, Damascus Gate and New Gate.
Now, I only rarely get any meaningful experience out of going to the Western Wall. But it is one of my most favorite places to sit and people watch. The only draw back is you have to go through security to get there. So I stopped walking, rolled a cigarette and decided I didn’t want to go through security just to people watch. And with that I turned around and headed back towards the new City Center. Not even five minutes later I watched as one police car zoomed in the direction of the Old City. Then a second. Then an ambulance. And 2 motor bike police. I stopped counting around 15 and pulled up a news site. A stabbing and shooting at the Damascus gate. When the dust settled on that day, they found out the 3 Palestinians also had pipe bombs in addition to their rifles and knives.
But the thing is, I didn’t really loose any sleep over it. That is just the way things seem to go. There is a real tangible psyche of everyone in this corner of the world that life goes on. You spend a few minutes think about all the “what ifs,” then you get a feeling of gratefulness that it wasn’t your turn, and then you go on with life. I think the fact that my first night in my first real Israeli apartment (1.5 years ago) a rocket exploded 150 meters away probably sped up my integration into this psyche.
There is also the not so dangerous parts that would have seemed unimaginable before I moved here too. I have been in the process of converting my US license to an Israeli one. It is a long, drawn out, and expensive process. And everyone knows that the driving instructors (which you are required to take, at least 1 for converting the license or at least 20 for new drivers) are in cahoots with the test givers to keep business booming. So I took 2 lessons and scheduled a test. Which, despite not messing up on anything, I failed. I expected this as all immigrants fail at least their first test, if not the first 2 or 3. I spent 15 minutes pissed, then moved on and scheduled my next test. The instructor, assuming I would want to better prepare for the next test asked when I wanted more lessons. I told him I didn’t need anymore, that everyone knows about the racket and that I’ll be just taking the test. When the day arrived, I had 200 shekels ready for a bride to the test giver so he would stop wasting my time. But just before the official got in the car (which belonged to my driving instructor), the instructor told me it costs an extra 180 shekels to use the car for the test if I haven’t taken any lessons that day. So much for the bride…
But I drove second (which is a ‘trick’ the instructor told me to do) and chatted with the test giver – casually mentioning the racket they have. I passed. Now all I have to do is go pay almost 500 shekels to the post office for the actual card.
Long process where lots of people are getting lots of money all from me and every other student. But such is life in the Middle East. You bit your tongue and move on.
So this is were I’m at. I have mellowed out in some interesting ways when it comes to terrorism. And in other ways, I’ve stepped up; I can almost hold my own in a shouting match over stupid things. It is interesting to see a change in your own behavior to fit a different culture than your own. I wonder if it will stay with me when I visit family and friends in the US or if I am still able to revert back into “polite southern society” (whatever that means!).
At any rate, life is interesting. I’m doing a better job of learning that running away from your problems doesn’t make them go away. And I’m happy with that.
I’ll try to update this a little more often as the adventures of the big move gets closer.