Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Here and There

It's been awhile since I've written, so before I dive into this blog, I might offer a bit of context: I wound up taking a whirlwind trip home to the States for three weeks at the end of July. The trip started off with a bang when a rocket hit near the airport and the American airlines shut down their Tel Aviv circuit. I spent two days on hold with the airlines to see if I'd actually be able to get out. I finally made it via Spain (Olé!) and went immediately from the desert and a war to a week at the lake with weenie roasts, Bingo (where I won big: $4.75), water skiing, and family that I hadn't seen for over five years.

From there, it was two weeks at home with more family time, doctors' appointments, feasting on Asheville's plethora of organic meats and ice cream flavors, wonderful friends, a frisbee tournament, and oh, working part-time from home with the dogs and the doorbells during that whole period.

When I returned home to Jerusalem, I immediately started work again and finished moving apartments - a process that had been turned into a tight-quartered circus of frustration and solidarity. I'd technically moved in before-hand, but joined forces (and space) with the departing roommate as we were both trying to figure out how to escape the country during the airport shutdown.  I'm now living with a delightful British friend in the same neighborhood as before, with so many trees, functional internet from anywhere in the apartment, AND A PATIO! (The only downside is that I can no longer randomly take on a British accent without wondering if I might be offensive instead of just strange.)

I took on all of these life adventures with full force, and then spent last weekend kind of laying on the couch, alternating between a book and staring off into space (...and yet, couldn't seem to figure out what was wrong with me). So, that's what's new with me, and this blog is about the parallels that I've encountered as I bounced between my two homes.


There, a far off rumbling is a thunderstorm trying to gauge its ambition. You can set your watch by its timing, but it doesn't often telegraph its might. 
Here, perhaps a truck shifting into second gear; perhaps a rocket being intercepted and falling in defeated shrapnel on a neighboring village. The magnitude is a point of boastful pride, but its the timing that will catch you off guard. 

There, ISIS is my friend’s bar – I watched his family turn the dilapidated movie theater into an elegant restaurant and festive music venue. I’d often walk over from my house for the best habanero cocktail I’ve ever had, or important civic causes like bluegrass shows to raise money for bike lanes and the esteem of self-impoverished hipsters.
Here, ISIS is also my neighbor (but they’re not so big on the cocktails): the increasingly powerful Islamic state garnering support and beheading babies in Syria and northern Iraq. Are they the ones taking advantage of the volatile times to launch a few friendly reminders of their presence across the northern border?

There, everything feels exactly the same as as how I left it - like a dollhouse discovered in the attic. 
Here, there is a mild breeze whispering of change, and everyone is holding his breath to see which way it will shift.

There, I dodge street performers and vagabonds in a bustling downtown, waving to the occasional familiar face.
Here, I dodge between tall, pointy hats of bishops, swiveling tourist cameras, and high-speed pita carts. I make my daily greetings to vendors, beggars, and taxi drivers stationed along my route to work.

There, I wait in line to be handed a menu, but I already know what I want: the chocolate mousse stout cake and a liquid truffle – smoked sea salt and maple of course. 
Here, I stand in a gaggle at the sneeze glass (if I’ve chosen carefully). There is no menu, but I already know that I want tabouleh, a carton of hummus, and some baba ganoush if they've got it.

There, the world around me seems certain, and I feel restless. 
Here, I feel a sense of calm despite the world’s uncertainty. I wish I could understand why this paradox guides my course.

There, I worry if my brother will be safe walking down the street in broad daylight. Will the police turn on him? Would strangers turn on him? 
Here, I worry if my neighbors will be safe walking down the street in broad daylight. Will the police turn on them? Will strangers turn on them? I sit in the comfort of my home, nestled down with a cup of coffee mixed with guilt, compassion, and a spoonful of sugar; never doubting my own safety, I watch the borders of my worlds blur. A protestor asks despondently of those holding the power and pointing the guns: “Why won’t they walk with us? Why don’t they want better?” Is there any difference between Ferguson, Missouri and Damascus Gate? And I can’t remember if I’m here or there.