Monday, January 14, 2013

First Thoughts State-Side

Readjusting was not something I had considered. I became so busy in Israel, with studies and papers and travel, that I postponed my flight ten extra days so I could squeeze in two more trips and squeeze out three more papers. I succeeded, by the skin of my teeth, and to the detriment of my eyes, straining over the computer screen for hours on end. And then I packed up my belongings, hopped on a bus, a train, and then a plane; I slept, and then I was in Newark, New Jersey.

There's still so much to be said about Israel. I want to work on a collection of short stories from my time there and do something to organize my pictures. Maybe I'll mount some of my favorites on my wall. I also plan on framing a map of Israel for my room. I'm reminded of the musical theatre phase I went through in high school when I mounted Wicked posters all over my room.

But this feels different. Israel is not a fantasy but a reality, something that I experienced and learned from and brought so much back from in my heart. When I look at the map of this tiny country now, I understand it. Understanding a map is such a satisfying feeling to me; I can read all the lines and symbols and know that there's something incredible waiting for me in the real lines and squiggles of this place.

But I know I need to preserve this and not let it go from my mind; I'm not a scrap-booking person, but I will come up with something.

The initial culture shock, which first occurred on the plane (or rather, in the airport amid hoards of American birthright groups) was not so terrible. I had spoken English the majority of my time in Israel, so I was used to conversing in my native tongue. But getting off the plane was weird. First of all, there were lines for everything, and someone always told me exactly where to go. I didn't have to figure it out for myself, or follow someone who looked self-assured, or push my way to the front of a line or interrupt or shout at someone to find an answer to a question. I was greeted with "good morning" and "thank you" multiple times before I even left customs.

The next weird event was the train station in the airport; not only were the signs in English, but the announcements of the stops were also in English! Even worse, I can now hear people's phone conversations and know exactly what they are saying--this is oddly violating, like I'm eavesdropping on something private that I should not be hearing.

People open the door for me here, and expect me to go through. I find this oddly insulting now. I also realize that I tend to not look at people in the eye when I talk to them (strangers, that is). I feel rude, impatient, and self-absorbed.

I also just got back from a really tense country. I realize now that life is not like this everywhere. I'm sure I knew this before, but it's something I forced myself to forget for the sake of keeping up with the rhythm and energy of Israel and the Middle-East. It's not a relaxing place.

Yet strangely, I feel so much more relaxed. I feel much more self-assured, though I am trying hard to not let this new-found sureness  translate into self-involvement, because I'm not that special, and my trip is peanuts in the bigger picture. But to me, it is so special. I find that I can't communicate this sentiment to people over here.

So far, I've noticed two things: one, that my family or friends expect me to forget all about Israel and jump back into "real life" and two, that my family or friends expects me to WOW them with my gigantic details of my (really ordinary) escapades. So, I don't know how to balance these two expectations. I also feel torn between the two: one minute I want to gush and talk about everything I did and saw and smelled in Israel, and the next I feel like I don't want to be that annoying person who says, "oh, when I was in Israel [or insert random foreign country here]. But, I get annoyed when people try to compare their abroad experiences to mine, because then I feel angry and selfish and get very protective over my Israel experience: "it's not [insert random foreign country here], it's Israel. 

But what does that mean??

This is a question I have attempted to answer through the course of this blog. I don't like answering questions nearly as much as I like asking them.

Ha Golan, or The Golan Heights: one of my favorite hiking trips.



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