Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Parental Advisory

For the first time in 22 years, these fine, upstanding citizens are flying across the ocean. 
Mom & Dad Winner
As I write this, they’re landing at Ben Gurion airport in Israel and making their way to Jerusalem. In their honor, I’ve thought of a few words of advice to help curb their culture shock and embrace this adventure. I think this will be an ongoing blog post as I imagine there will be a couple of times throughout their visit when I will say, “Woop, should have thought to tell you that…” (I also totally welcome any readers who are familiar with the area to send me other thoughts to add.) But without further ado, here is the first installment:

Scroll to the bottom for updates 
  •            Bring shoes with traction. Thousands of battles and pilgrims trodding the stones of the Old City have worn them down quite a bit. And avoid the area altogether in the rain – it becomes like a luge. Once I saw this Orthodox Russian woman slide straight from the Jewish Quarter into the Muslim Quarter’s barbershop in one quick run – she made incredible time, too.

  •           Throw your concept of space out the window. You think that bus can’t fit? It totally can. (Just get out of the Armenian Quarter tunnel before it does.) It’s not uncommon for a vendor to help you make change by digging into your purse or the next customer “in line” at the nut stand to breathe down your neck (or more accurately, shove his cashews right past you). They may look like us and many of them speak our language, but this is not the wide-open plains of Kansas anymore.
  •           You can drink Jerusalem water (and most anywhere in the country) from the tap. It’s perfectly safe. Just note: drinking too much of it can lead to delusions that you are the messiah.
  •           Upon my arrival, my good friend gave me some powerful advice that I have never forgotten. We were on our way to get some shwarma from our parking spot on the hill. Once across the road, he grabbed my shoulder and looked deeply into my eyes and said, “Rachel. You must be very, very careful. Look both ways when crossing the street here or you will die.”
  •           Do not take anything personally. The waiter may scream at you. The taxi driver may scream at you. You may ask for help, and the man on the street corner may scream at you…and then kindly point you in the right direction. Do not take anything personally – it is the Israeli way.
  •           And since we’re on the topic of asking for directions, most people speak English if you need help. Just look lost (or sometimes don’t even bother and they’ll offer to help anyway). Two important tangential comments, however: 1) If they don’t actually know the directions, they’ll advise you confidently just the same. 2) Do not let makeshift tour guides follow you through the city, point out random facts, and ask you for money.
  •           I think I’ve said this before, but it really could do to mention again unless you are a masochist and/or really love crowds: avoid the shuk (market) on a Friday. Think Gasparilla (for all you Florida folk), but with an emphasis on produce instead of beads...and I guess showing your boobs won't get you cheaper avocados. So, maybe not the best analogy, but in any case, we’ll go and get a nice slice of halva on Sunday afternoon to avoid the swarms of people 
  •           The money here is make-believe. This is a survival tactic and I strongly encourage you to adopt this philosophy while you’re here (especially while I’m in tow ;)).
  •           Most of the large explosions are celebratory firecrackers. The rest are better left under the same aforementioned assumption.
  •           Drinking tea with a shop owner means you might have just bought yourself a new rug.
  •           Watch out for the cat poop.
  •            “Hakol yihieh beseder” – everything will be fine. “Eiffo sherutim?” – where’s the bathroom? What else do you need to know? 
These are the posts I'm adding throughout our adventure, or that others are contributing
  • Sooooo, precisely 4.5 hours after I thought my parents had landed, I came upon a very important life lesson in international travel: The international dateline. I have no idea where the screw up came about as every itinerary I've seen, sent by my very meticulous father, indicates their arrival today, May 15th, in year of our Lord 2014 (according to some, I guess). But alas, they are really coming tomorrow, May 16th, which makes me very sad as I a) do not get to see them for another 20 hours and b) purchased a significant number of chocolate croissants and savory pastries this morning, which will be stale by tomorrow. (Please note the subtextual lesson here: purchase fresh, hot biscuits. Always.) To be continued...