Monday, May 25, 2009

On a Weirdly Prophetic Note...

Last Tuesday night I had a pleasant nocturnal dream episode. I remember it precisely because it was so pleasant. As I see it, some people suffer from migraines, I suffer from nightmares. Yes, even when I'm not stressed, when my life is going extremely well and my positive positiveness is cresting wonderfully, I have nightmares that wake me up, keep me up, and make any horror/thriller flick look like a Disney movie.

Anyway, back to my pleasant dream: the night before the Macy Gray concert (Tuesday), I dreamt that Radiohead made a surprise guest appearance at the Yom haStudentim festivities at Independance Park. Understandably, I lost it, I was so excited. That's it. That was the episode from this dream I chose to remember.

On Wednesday night in real life, halfway through her show, Macy was chatting to the crowd and I was trying to place the music playing in her background. It was not a Macy song. When I did place it just before she started singing it, well, let me tell ya: If I was sitting on a chair, I would've fallen off it (but would have done it in such a way so as not to cause bodily injury...). Macy covered Radiohead's 'Creep' and she did a fantastic job of it. I lost it, I was so excited. So, even though Radiohead themselves didn't make a guest appearance, one of their songs did. Yup. Weird.

Suckypants Sick Girl

I feel like dirt. I have a cold. It's a really nasty, painful cold. It's entirely possible that I'm blowing this way out of proportion, but the amount of kleenex I've gone through in the last 48 hours says otherwise. And, it's also possible that I'm blowing this way out of proportion because I'm rarely ill. I do have cold medication here but I'm avoiding it - I'm gargling with salt water, drinking lots of different teas, and eating as many Vitamin C-rich foods as I can stomach. I'm hoping to build up my immunity and not have to deal with this again for a long time. In my current state of extreme self-pity, the question that has been voiced in a Brenda Vaccaro-esque whisper is: why, oh why, if I have to be sick, why can't I get one of those rapid weight-loss bugs that cleanses the system and when you're well again you're like 30lbs lighter? I know, I know: be careful what you wish for...but, really, come on. Feeling like dirt sucks, but a positive (if entirely shallow) light at the end of the tunnel just makes the suffering seem worth it. I know I'm being ridiculous and I don't even have meds to blame.

And, of course, I went through my activities for the past week trying to analyze HOW I caught the cold. Was it because I was out till 3:30am watching Macy Gray, dancing with 6000 other people at Independance Park? Was it because I drank some beer and sat in the grass? Was it the nightmares and late-night party-ers on other nights, keeping me up and my immune system didn't get enough rest so it's now rebelling? Is it the extra piece of Qadosh dessert? Or, well, maybe I just caught it - no reason, it just happened.

Now, I'm trying to rest which is difficult considering all the work I have to do. I'm trying to feel better because Richard and Tzippy are here and I don't want to pass this on to them, or to anyone else. This was why I stayed home from class today - it's bad enough hacking in public but the worry of infectious behaviour kept me in bed, hacking by my lonesome. Wahwahwah!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Birthday

Today is my fifth day of being 40. I'm feeling pretty good, peaceful with myself and with the world. It's very satisfying to say that, and I make sure that I'm not smug about it because, well, arrogance is anathema to feeling peaceful and I don't always feel peaceful. But! My classes are going well, I'm very pleased with my marks from last semester (including 2 As), and I'm coming across some more fantastic ideas and material for my thesis. I'm very excited about the future: the rest of my time in Israel will be balanced between classes and homework/essays, visiting and roadtripping with: Alain (my pal from Paris), Richard and Tzippy, hopefully Jason, and Annette Metzuyenet who returns to Jerusalem for the Ulpan on 22 June. And, of course, I'm looking forward to my homecoming in July. I've already started re-arranging my apartment in my head.

Tuesday evening before my birthday, Joseph made a four-course fantastic dinner as a kick-off for bday celebrations. In attendance: me, Pieter, Jacob, Staz and Stephen. On the menu: chicken matzaball-type soup; salad with avocadoes, roasted red peppers, romaine, blue cheese, bocconcini, and something else; bruschetta with fresh basil, tomatoes and garlic; ravioli stuffed with cheese; and multiple mushroom risotto. We had Israeli Pinot Noir and another lovely red whose grape/name escapes me.

Thursday morning at 11am I got a phone call from Richard's Florists saying they had a delivery for me. For me? From whom? How exciting! The roomies and I had been wracking our brains: Mom? Dad? My girls? Adrienne? A boy? (A huge whatever for 'the boy' guess!) At around 4pm, this huge, beautiful orange tree arrives for me! From Julie, Julie, Daniele and Erika! Yes, I cried and Lily was there to witness my ultimate girlish reaction. THEN I checked my mailbox: I got two things. First, the card from my Grandmother - just in time! (The cards from my parents had arrived a few weeks ago.) The second thing: a slip saying I had a package waiting for me at the post office. For me? From whom? How exciting! So, I raced down to the post office, there was no line (total shocker - usually you're in there for at least 45 minutes waiting) and it was from Daniele! I raced home, ripped it open, and promptly made myself a cup of Tim's! Thank you, Dan, for this fantastic anticipation of home!

Thursday evening, Lily, Kyle and I went for dinner at Qadosh, one of my favourite restaurants here. I promise to start taking photos there, especially of their desserts. I had my favourite dessert, Napoleon, and the girls gave me a gorgeous journal that Kyle had picked up for me at the Victoria and Albert Museum in Paris.

My birthday itself was relaxed and great fun.I was up early and Pieter and I walked down to the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum. It was fantastic! All of the artefacts were numbered, but there were no plaques or written guides in the North or South rooms telling you what the artefacts are. So, I went to the front desk and inquired and the guard gave me three notebooks, circa 1961, softcover and bound with string, which provided the details we were looking for:
One isn't supposed to take photos in the museum itself, but one is allowed to snap in the courtyard. Pieter and I, however, were naughty: I'd look casual, keeping my eyes peeled for the guard while he pulled out his camera-phone and took some stealth photos. Yup, I'm gettin' old: my naughtiness is relegated to an obscure realm, just as my studies are.

After the museum visit, Pieter and I went for birthday schwarma on Salah Ed-Din, a street in East Jerusalem just outside the Old City walls. Then we decided, spontaneously, to visit the Garden Tomb after walking through the Albright Institute. This was the only photo I got of Pieter smiling, and being silly/funny Pieter:
We then hopped an Arab sherut, got out just before we ended up in Beit Hanina, and I was back in time for mid-afternoon (in Israel) / early morning (in Barrie) birthday chats with my parents. I also spoke with Adrienne and that led up to birthday dinner.

Alex, Jessica (my HBO Rome pals), Joseph, Pieter, Gavin (my movie pal) and I went to the Armenian Tavern, just inside the Jaffa Gate. It was yummy food, and great conversation in an amazing atmosphere of old Jerusalem stone and Armenian artefacts everywhere. Afterwards, Gavin and I went for ice-cream on Jaffa Road, then down to Cinemateque to see "The Divine Weapon," a Korean film. Um, yeah, bad movie but it was fun. I loved how all the male characters punctuated each sentence with a masculine guffaw, and the female characters were either fueled by their tempers or were very demure. The fight scenes were cool but too short; the slow scenes were weapon-making montages in lush mountainous scenery set to a patriotic score.

Yes, I had a lovely birthday. This is my second birthday abroad - I celebrated 32 with my Mom in the Boyne Valley in Ireland. I feel very grown up but don't look so grown up; Adrienne and I joke that people think we're younger than we are because we're immature for our age. If a sincere joie de vivre is equal to immaturity, then I'll take immaturity any day. But, I don't think that's it. I'm still trying to figure out what 'it' is. I hope it takes a lifetime. As my Dad says, "Any age is a good age." As my Mom says, "You're a free spirit." A birthday is a good time to reflect on the journey so far, and the journey to come. Like I said, I'm figuring it out, and am happy that I have so many people to help me and travel with along the way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Catholic AND Jewish Fun!

Today's post is brought to you by helicopters, bullhorns amplifying a Hebrew voice, and by the smell of BBQ lighter fluid.

First, helicopters and bullhorns.
This is the view from my bedroom window this morning:

The scene was similar late morning/early afternoon on Monday. From my bedroom window, I have a view of the helipad across the street. On the other side of the helipad is the Hadassah hospital, situated between us here in the kfar and the Hebrew University. The helipad is very rarely used. This week, however, it got a lot of action: The Pope arrived in Jerusalem on the 11th, and just left, travelling by helicopter to and from this point. (As I type, the soldiers, police and secret service personnel are packing up and leaving.) Today was a little more sedate than on Monday. In the past few weeks, there was a greater military presence in our little suburb than during the Gaza flair-up in December/January. Leading up to the Pope's arrival, the helipad was decorated with Israel, Jerusalem and Vatican flags; banners of the same were hung from the streetlights. As well, there were more police and more military in that area, especially at night, with their irritating barking dogs. All last week we knew when midnight had arrived because the dogs started barking in a wild nocturnal chorus. Thoughts of yelling at them crossed my mind, but, well, dogs at the end of leashes held by dudes with big guns just seemed too risky a confrontation, even for me. Almost as creepy as seeing snipers on your village's rooftops:

On Monday, Kyle, Jacob, Anna and I (two Jews, one Catholic, and one pagan - all of us pretty excited) watched the arrival from our prime location in our apartment. The different types of security personnel were distinguishable by their attire: police in their navy uniforms; soldiers in their fatigues; and we're assuming the suit and tie guys, one of whom was wielding the bullhorn, formed some sort of secret service. Via bullhorn, in Hebrew, we were first instructed to close our bedroom windows. Then, the kfar was cleared of spectators and Kyle and Anna were made to close their bedroom window blinds, so we all ended up in my room. For whatever reason, I could keep my blinds open. A convoy of four helicopters arrived, the last of which delivered the Pope. We saw his hat. The cardinals were easily distinguishable in their black robes and red sashes: "Oh, there's a cardinal. And, there's a cardinal. And, there's another one." On the streets, traffic - both vehicular and pedestrian - was stopped until the Pope was safely en route to the Mount of Olives. Lily came home in a tizzy, having been one of the people made to wait in the noonday sun on the street: "All this fuss for one old man!"

Second, BBQ lighter fluid:
Monday evening/Tuesday was Lag B'Omer: In the Jewish calendar, there is a countdown between Pesach and Shavu'ot when tradition has it that Moses was given the Torah. Lag B'Omer celebrates several events, and is also called "The Fire Festival" (so Lily tells us) and is celebrated with bonfires and BBQs. In the kfar, many people were out BBQing, and the smell of their BBQ lighter fluid was overpowering - the wind carried it right into my room. I had been invited by Rabbi Yossi to attend this function: "Jewish Woodstock Celebration! Lag B'Omer in Meron, together with R. Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, and thousands of Kabbalah buffs from all over the world!" I did not attend the festival, mostly because it was an all night affair and I had class the next day. Rabbi Yossi suggested I just sleep in class - obviously he doesn't know that I'm much older than my peers and am, perhaps, a more serious student than he thinks. But, our new roomie, Katya, did go to Meron and she said she was disappointed because there was nowhere for the women to dance, only the men. Thousands of people and nowhere for the women. The thing I love the most is how this event was advertised: "Jewish Woodstock Celebration!" The Woodstock-inspired-free-love-drug-taking-hippies-dancing-and-running-around-naked mental images we have don't really go with the Orthodox Jewish, black-clad, modest, women-can't-dance-with-men, in fact women can't dance at all, celebration in Meron.

This advertising technique is not unique here (I will find some more examples for you) but my all time favourite is the food-lure. Everyone does it and I think it's hysterical: Free pizza (and the seven Noahide laws) ! Sushi (learn Torah the right way) ! Free four-course meal (a special message just for you from Jesus) ! Food and religion = the opiate of the people. And a few helicopters, for fun and excitement.