Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Home Again, and Sick Again

Here I am back in Jerusalem, home from a wonderful (and very full) week back in Cleveland. I realize I've been very slack in keeping up here, but my whole life feels like it's on hold at the moment: I am super-behind in all my classes, Jef is here (the best part of it all), my radiator exploded while I was out of town, leaving me with a room submerged in a rust-puddle, and to top it off--I have the flu. The horrible, body-aching, throat-searing, fever-inducing, cough-shaking, moan and groan flu. So I am missing more classes, and falling more behind. Oh well. There is very little I can do about it.

And I certainly wouldn't trade my time at home with my friends and family, and my time here with Jef, for anything. If you want to know of Jef and my adventures, he's been writing more than me, so click here.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Flying Tonight

It's freezing in Jerusalem tonight. For the past few weeks I've been wearing t-shirts to school, and today, thinking it was to be the same, I went out in just a light sweater. The wind was blowing fierce and I ended up running to school blinded by sleet. When I got home this afternoon, it was hailing and thundering, and it got me worried that my flight would be cancelled. Luckily, Ben Gurion's website says all flights out of Tel Aviv on time.

So, now that I'm on my way home to true winter, finally Jerusalem feels like Christmas. Tammy and I threw a party the other night, and around thirty guests crowded into the apartment, most of them new to the concept of Christmas. But they ate our cookies and listened to carols and drank egg nog, and we danced and ate and talked about nothing much, just like a Christmas party should be.

Now, in about five hours, I fly home to my house and my family and this distant other life of mine. I have never felt so completely at home in two different places before. I'm not the first to say that about Jerusalem. Maybe since it's been a part of my life since I was a child, the mythology and the history of this city, but from the moment I arrived here, it has been familiar to me. I will only be gone a week, but I will miss it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Two Hundred Shekels

Yesterday I went into the Old City for yet another round of Christmas shopping, and somehow managed to spend the better part of a thousand shekels (a little over $200) in the course of a few hours, while also finding myself the unfortunate victim of the pushiest of salesmen for the first time that I can recall. Here is how it happened (keep in mind that at the time of my story, I had been up since seven in the morning after a night of four hours sleep, had been in two two-hour classes, was stressed out about finding something for everyone, catching up in my classes, planning a Christmas party and packing for home, and had already been walking around the Old City for several hours, bargaining to the point of exhaustion): I was on my way out, laden with gifts, when a man passed me on the street and asked me to come look in his shop. I said no. He said just come take my business card. I was so tired, and just wanted him to go away, but finally I sighed and followed him. Next thing I know, three Arab salesmen are showing me things, talking to me, confusing me, and in a few short minutes, one of them is packing up a necklace, and removing from my outstretched hand 200 shekels. I have no idea what happened, how I could have been so weak and discombobulated that I actually finally agreed just so I could leave. I actually burst into tears when I walked out of the shop. It reminded me of a few times in India when I had felt so utterly taken advantage of, and so manipulated, that control suddenly flew from my hands to some stranger's and I was left with this feeling of violation. It was awful.

So now I have this necklace, which is actually quite beautiful, but which I never wanted in the first place. I had a few thoughts of trying to return it, but I know how futile that would be, and besides--I will never set foot in that shop again. From now on I limit myself to one hour of shopping, on a full night's sleep, and only when in full command of all my mental faculties.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Egg Nog

Spent last night decorating Christmas cookies and making egg nog with Tammy. We didn't have any cookie cutters, so we ended up having to sculpt our own cookies. Among our best creations were a donkey, Bart Simpson, and the Baby Jesus, all of which were covered with festive blue and pink frosting and colorful orange sprinkles (I couldn't find red and green anywhere). The egg nog, for my first attempt, turned out pretty decent. Just needs a little rum and a little nutmeg, and it should be perfect.

I have to finish my Christmas shopping today, and then head home to get ready for the big party. I have no idea how many people will show up--it could be ten, ir could be thirty. But either way, there'll be plenty of food, and plenty of Christmas cheer. Tammy is so excited. So far, she seems pretty impressed with Christmas--the carols, the cookies, the decorations. Strange how easy it is to leave the actual Jesus stuff out of will be nice to be home where I can put him back in again.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

We Got 'Im

Such a strange day. I am baking Christmas cookies for the party I'm throwing on Tuesday, and I am listening to carols that are all centered around the land I am living in right now. The Little Town Of Bethlehem is just four miles down the road. To top off the surreal nature of my thoughts tonight, my head is swimming with images of pathetic Saddam Hussein being examined by a doctor, bedraggled and defeated. What does one do with days like today? Enjoy them, I guess.

I am happy to report that I somehow managed to get A's on both my language midterms. Hooray--a major source of stress for me now gone. And I go home in five days! I can't wait to see everybody I miss so much...

Saturday, December 13, 2003


I just spent an hour and a half writing this long post, and I clicked on a link in order to check on one of my facts before I posted, and subsequently the "back" thingy took me to every site I'd been on today EXCEPT of course, my brilliant post. I am so so so upset about this. I mean, where the hell is it? I actually want to throw things. Or hit things. Or break things.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Yom Rivi'i

My black mood has finally passed, and I am back to (somewhat) normal. My mom's comment made me smile, made me remember what I haven't lost. She has been telling me the same things for as long as I can remember, whether I woke her up in the middle of the night after having had a nightmare, or whether I called her up crying after breaking up with a boyfriend. Having my roomate back in town helps a lot as well--this week was mainly difficult for having been by myself most of the time. But now, I have friends over, my apartment is Christmasy, my plans for the weekend low-key and relaxing, and my midterms have passed. I actually think I did pretty well, but I won't know for a few more days. Although I suppose anything would be better than a 51.

Tomorrow I go into the Old City to procure some Christmas presents to take back to Ohio. I shall be armed with 500 shekels and ready to bargain. I've become quite good at the art of haggling over the years, though sometimes I tend to get carried away with the competition of it, and I have to consciously remind myself to give a little bit. I have to force myself to pay more for things than I need to, remembering what I would pay for the same things elsewhere, and keeping in mind the slowness of business here--I can afford the extra ten shekels.

For now, I must get back to my studying. Tonight I must finish Aisha, Beloved of Muhammad for my course on Islam, and I've got to try to make a dent in Scholem's Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism for Kabbalah.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

December Already

I received a Christmas package in the mail from my Mom and Dad, full of cookies and candy and decorations and, best of all, Christmas music. I may be the only one of my friends who still loves Christmas music, but I hold fast to the belief that it is wonderful, magical, altogether lovely. Maybe it's just that I am one of those peculiar people who had a blissfully happy childhood, but I think there is something to be said for maintaining the innocence that allows us to enjoy the trite and cheesy kitsch of life that most people, so set on seeing The World As It Is, choose to regard with such disdain. Of course I could just be trying to defend my affinity for sappy movies, happy endings, and all things Christmas. But I proceed.

It's odd though, I can't seem to listen to the music of my memory without feeling, of all things, sad. Nostalgia is a nasty little illness. The unfortunate byproduct of said happy childhood is this nagging feeling that something has been lost. I know I'm not the only one who's felt this way, but sitting in my apartment by myself, decorating a miniature Christmas tree and listening to Nat King Cole, it feels like I am. Is adulthood just meant to be loneliness? I'm not a lonely person at all; I have an incredible family, great friends, and plenty of people to talk to--but on certain nights, in a certain mood, with a certain scent or a certain melody, I feel so disconnected from everything else, almost lost. Maybe I took a wrong turn somewhere way back, and if I'd gone the other way there would be newness in every minute rather than this constant tug-of-war between experiencing the present with joy and excitement and thinking of the past with sadness and regret.

I know I'm taking a bittersweet mood and waxing it to death here, but I'm not sure what else to do with it. I'm so accustomed to bringing these feelings to God, these inklings and yearnings all too big for me, and asking Him to make sense of them, to bring my life back, somehow, to that place of security, to return to me whatever it feels like I am missing. There is such a comfort in being able to do that. To trust in this Being, this Power that is working everything out for good just for me. There's a promise in it that has made these moods--which come all too often to me--bearable. But now, now with this handful of doubt I'm dealing with, there is only me to go to, which doesn't help at all, since I have this strange feeling that it's me that's the problem from the start. I guess what I mean is, while nostalgia for most people may be warm and fuzzy and merely bittersweet, for me it is all these things, coupled with this tiny little pocket of hopelessness. And when I have to sit, listening to "O Come All Ye Faithful," and secretly, quietly praying that This Whole Thing is true--whereas I used to be able to fight this tiny pocket off with such confidence--the hopelessness feels like it's gaining a bit of power.

Enough of this. This is a happy day. I have cookies to munch on, a party to plan, a test to study for, a visit from my best friend to look forward to, and I'm going home in less than two weeks. What's the sense in these drops of despair?

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Viva La Israel

Am very happy today. I slept in till 12:45, got up, tidied, read the paper, surfed the net...just as Shabbat should be. Then Matt and Eugene came over bearing pizza with onions and eggplant, and we all sat down and watched "24." Now they're gone, and my apartment is quiet and clean, and finally, finally, I feel ready to sit down and study. (Never mind that I'm online at the moment).

Last night we went to the party we'd been invited to the night before, in a ramshackle, wonderful apartment in the city center. The previous owners had built a wall around the front yard, covered the ceiling with plastic, and pronounced the courtyard a living room. So we sat in the front yard/living room, staring at the wall--entirely painted into a green, black, and orange mural of trees or something, drinking, dancing, and alternating languages.

The owner of the apartment, and our host, was a young Isaeli named Nimrod. I found that fascinating. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't that sort of like naming your daughter Jezebel or something? Anyway, he's nothing like his name--a really nice guy--and all of his friends were very welcoming and open. I ended up dancing with this crazy guy named Daniel, who made me laugh with his utter un-self-consciousness. I also saw Yoni there, the guy who decided I was Jewish, and I still haven't confessed that I'm not--even after he called me a JAP when I told him I'd never smoked out of a bong before. I suppose that's what you get for such presumption.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Okay, a Little Play...

Last night I attempted to ease the Hebrew-induced pressure in my head by drinking lots and lots of alcohol. At the time, it worked wonders--my Hebrew was flowing beautifully--but this morning I am being punished for it. Blech.

We started out the night in Ksenia's room, performing a little Polish tradition for St. Anne something-or-other's day (at the end of November). All the girls sit around and take part in a few games that are supposed to tell us about our future, whether or not we'll get married (and when...), how many kids we're going to have, etc. We opened up a couple bottles of wine and dug in, and my future appears to be bright.

After the ceremony of St. Anne something-or-other, Ksenia, Helen and I headed out into Jerusalem to meet up with a couple friends. We started out drinking Israeli beer in a bar no bigger than my bedroom, and ended up drinking Palestinian beer in a bar that looked like it was carved out of the wreckage of an old building. We danced until four in the morning, and met a few Israelis who invited us to a party tonight. I was talking to one of them in Hebrew, and he noted how he was certain I was the only Jew in my little group of friends. He said he could just tell, and not because I was the prettiest. Apparently I just exude Judaism. I asked him if it was because of my--shall we say--Aquiline nose, and he said that wasn't it either. He just knew, something about sweetness. I didn't have the heart to tell him he was flirting with a Protestant, especially one particularly fond of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

All Work and No Play

My Hebrew midterm is tomorrow and I can't bring myself to study. I have been memorizing and memorizing words, trying to catch up with the rest of the class--five or six chapters a day. The combination of that with my Arabic class, which suddenly feels like it's getting faster and faster, has been turning my brain to mush. I feel like a sponge submerged in water--there's only so much I can soak up. For the past day or so, I can't seem to learn any new words. There is simply no more room. I am full. Capacity reached. No more studying for a while.

This is really a shame, however, since on my last Hebrew test a pulled in a paltry 51%. I can't remember the last time I got a 51 on a test. Luckily, the highest grade in the class was a 54, so I don't feel so bad. And: Hebrew doesn't count. We don't get credit for it; we just have to learn it. So I suppose the number doesn't really matter. Maybe I can manage a D tomorrow. We'll see.