Thursday, October 29, 2009

London, post script

How can I put this? I think I'm missing London a little bit. Not immensely, nor do I wish to move back. But I miss it enough to warrant a short visit.

I never truly felt like a local in London. But who does? Nearly everyone in London comes from somewhere else, whether from a small village in the north of England or all the way from a foreign land on the other side of the world, London is home to an assortment of people looking for something different. I think the only time I felt like a local was on the Tube. I knew where I was going, where I needed to switch trains, had my 30% discount Oyster card, and maneuvered around all the slow people. Although occasionally I was one of the slow people. Once above ground however, I returned to being a tourist, albeit a jaded, tired tourist who had spent a little bit too much time in the city.

I remember occasions where I was at the Southbank Centre looking across the Thames to the Houses of Parliament and its crowning feature, Big Ben. In those moments, I truly felt like a tourist in the most positive and happiest of ways.

During weekends where I felt particularly adventurous, I'd venture to areas of London I hadn't seen before. One time I visited some street in Camden and immediately likened it to Old Town Pasadena, near my home in Alhambra. It was a most unexpected comparison, one I knew I wouldn't make again anywhere else in London. This turned out to be true.

I remember my first visit to the Portobello Road Market during my last weeks in London. I found it ironic considering most people make this a must-see during their brief vacations yet it took me nearly 2 years to make the westward trip.

Speaking of markets, I truly miss Borough Market with its numerous food stalls selling venison burgers, jamon serrano, chorizo, and weird smoothies (that I never bought, but enjoyed looking at). Though staunchly independent, I never once visited Borough Market by myself. It was a place where I got to know people better over cheese samples and shots of fruit juices.

I was never a big fan of the DLR. In fact, I felt that TFL ought to have paid US just for using their inconsistent, slow, driver-less pieces of shit. With that said, I do miss the views of the Docklands throughout South East London, especially when nearing Canary Wharf. I also enjoyed emerging from the Canary Wharf Tube station to read the giant stock market ticker wrapped around one of the nearby skyscrapers, not understanding any of it. And of course, passing a pre-disgrace Lehman Bros. building wondering what the hell goes on inside. A good hypothesis would be the burning of American currency?

Food is dear to me and I found much of the inexpensive to mid-range food on offer in London to be overpriced and under-tasty. However there were a few gems that stood out to me such as Tai Won Mein in Greenwich near the Cutty Sark. A crowded, noisy, dirty, ugly place with picnic benches for tables and prison guards for waiters (at least it seemed that way), I constantly asked myself why anyone would consistently subject themselves to such an experience. Then I took one bite of my fried beef with ho fun and knew the answer: Because for an experience worse than your middle school cafeteria, the food was fucking amazing.

During my first year in London I lived in a giant student community. Though many aspects of this drove me crazy, I had the great fortune of living in a flat 6 stories high facing the Thames and the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. Every sunset I witnessed was special, and the lights shining from the giant buildings were enough to illuminate my room in the darkness.

One of my main hobbies is collecting used and old books. I've amassed quite a collection from my travels around the world, and London certainly housed an impressive number of antiquarian and secondhand bookstores. Even the chain stores selling new books appealed to me. Some highlights include Daunt in Marylebone, Waterstone's in Bloomsbury (with its treasure-chest attic of old books), Stanford's on Longacre, and the various used booksellers along Charing Cross Rd. scattered between the larger chain superstores. An old book a day keeps the doctor away.

There isn't one London. It can't be summed up in a few words. There are many Londons. The London known to tourists. The London known to residents. The London known to the rich. The London known to the poor. The London known to Brits. The London known to foreigners. The London reminisced by the elderly. The London newly explored by the young. The London known to historians. The London known to club-hoppers and ravers. The London known to preps. The London known to chavs. The London containing beautiful squares and parks. The London containing soulless council estates. The London promising a better future full of opportunities. The London showing the face of failure. Maybe I never really got to know London at all. Maybe in an entire lifetime, one cannot grasp the enormity of its splendor and squalor. But its not a competition, is it?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

You have the flu. No, not THAT flu....actually, you may have THAT flu

Q: What do Arabs and Mexicans have in common?

A: They are likely to bring the entire family to the hospital when only one person actually needs treatment.

This weekend I was hit with a ton of bricks of illness. I thought I'd be better today, but after a largely sleepless food-less night, I knew I had taken a turn for the worse.

I stumbled out of my apartment to the studios. Once there, I began shaking and crying because of my overall lack of energy and power. Upon seeing me in such a mess, my director Einav insisted on taking me to the hospital.

The experience at the hospital adds nothing positive to my general feeling towards hospitals. But it wasn't torturous either. Einav warned me not to look at anyone. I wish I had followed her advice since I became physically and verbally squeamish at the mere sight of a number of patients and their ailments. Oops.

While waiting for a nurse to see me I noticed that the majority of patients in the waiting area were Arabs. Though its more likely that only few of them were actual patients and the rest were just waiting family members. I realized I probably saw more Arabs today in the hospital than in all my time here in Nahariya. Northern integration, I think not.

However it is true that the social and professional integration between Arabs and Jews is of a larger number up here in the north of the country than in other places. But the cultural separation is still evident regardless.

Hours later I was sent home with Doctor's Orders not to have contact with anyone for a week, not to do pretty much anything, and to drink lots of water. Welcome to my week of Quarantine.

The flu sucks, y'all.

I am massively grateful to Einav and my classmates who have been more than helpful and supportive.

תודה רבה לכולם

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Happiness, more or less...

Today I came to the realization that bad days can turn into perfect days.

**

Sometime last week I injured myself in class and am still feeling the pain in my foot. As a result, I've been out of commission and spend most of the time observing class rather than taking part. Its a necessary step to getting better but its also quite frustrating.

**

Solitude is a word that keeps rolling around in my head. Since moving to this kibbutz, I seek it constantly. Fortunately I'm in such a place where I can find it. I've been told that constant communal socialization is a part of kibbutz culture. While I understand this assertion, I've also learned that I do not need to be friends with everyone, nor do I need to participate in large groupings. In fact, I prefer individuals to groups. There is undoubtedly a change in dynamic once a person is thrust into a group setting. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. All I know is that I prefer sincerity to masked pretention.

**

This afternoon I found myself by the sea. This shouldn't be a significant event considering I was born and raised in Southern California. However, I never considered myself a "beach person". In fact, I always hated the beach. I hated the litter strewn sand, the brown water, the dirty bathrooms, the overpriced and under-tasty beach food, the crowds and the overall driving distance just to get to the beach. But here in Israel, the beach is totally within reach. And the beaches are quite clean. And even at their most crowded, they are never that crowded. Since moving here I find that I'm at the beach a lot more often than in my 20+ years of living in Southern California. This is a good thing.

**

Whilst walking through Nahariya today I noticed I'm beginning to feel less a tourist and more a local. Which led me to my next thought: How exactly is a local defined? Perhaps if I took the most obvious factors into consideration I'd realize that I'm not a local at all. I wasn't born in this country. I hardly speak the native language. I look like a complete foreigner no matter what. I've not reached the level of innate aggression and assertiveness that Israelis possess. But on the other hand, I live near this city. I'm practically in the city every week. I know where things are, where I like to eat, where I like to shop, where to find a clean bathroom, and various modes of transportation around the country. So I'm not a local. Not even close. But I've left tourist level, as far as Nahariya is concerned. Though why a tourist would wander into Nahariya is beyond me.

**

I am always slightly amused by the irony of seeing an Israeli wearing a "Free Tibet" tee shirt.

**

The intention this weekend is to rest and recover. Should this occur, I can hope to expect a good coming week.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mourning

Its days like today that I am sure of my fate.


Its as if I'm mourning the death of someone who hasn't even died--or existed.


Sadly, today is yet another day I'm happy to cross off my calendar.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Really, Just Saying....

Things that would make life much easier if the Kibbutz had:

-A cash machine
-A cafe
-Food store open 7 days a week!
-Coin operated laundromat
-Vending machines!!!!

Thank you, that is all.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A message to Israelis: The Palestinians are not your problem, its your fucking driving that will destroy you.

And on that note, I begin this post with a comment on the driving habits of Israelis. And actually, the Palestinians are just as guilty. In Los Angeles people pride themselves on being good drivers, aggressive drivers, assertive drivers. Believe me, LA drivers have nothing on the rest of the world. I always thought European drivers to be quite the daredevils and London drivers specifically to be plain wreckless. But in this region, people drive their cars as if they were operating fighter jets. Maybe at some point in life they did. But the roads are not the skies folks. Let's slow it down a bit, okay?

**

I've returned to the kibbutz after a long holiday weekend in the center of the country. The more I'm here the more I realize its a good place to be. It is true that its a small kibbutz and you cant really hide, but I think there is enough space for everyone if you really look for it. Its very peaceful and quiet up here and I'm learning to truly appreciate this.

**

Occassionally I miss London. I get small reminders everyday in various sensical forms. Sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and textures that invoke memories both specific and atmospheric. Living on a kibbutz in northern Israel is completely different from living in a multi-story flat in London. I think the most obvious differences are the amount of space alotted per person, the street safety, the community feeling, the environment, and the noise levels.

But there are other factors. This kibbutz houses an international community of dancers who all live near each other more or less in different areas that I've dubbed "villages". You are never too far from another dancer whether in Sedna, MASA, or one of the professional companies. This is a nice feeling.

Even though things right now are quite challenging in many ways for me, I think I have made the right decision to be here.