I did not move to Israel after high school. I did not move after college, nor even after grad school. I did not move after my first time leaving home. I left as a full-fledged adulting adult. So when I moved, I never thought of myself as anything other than a mature, together, self-sufficient woman. Boy, was I wrong. My first few months here I couldn't have really even known. I was living in ulpan, with all my basic needs and schedule taken care of, going about my business with my errands and tasks keeping me busy. It wasn't until I moved out and on my own that I realized how essentially alone I was out here. I never realized how much I actually depended on people back in NYC to help me in tiny little ways.
If I needed furniture moved or fixed, my dad was always right there. If I needed to pick up a notebook or cardigan, my mom would gladly get it for me on her next Target run. If I needed a ride to the airport at 3AM, my little sister would do it with a yawn and a smile. And if I needed anything else, I knew there was an assortment of lifelong friends, willing and able to help out. This is not the case here in Israel. When I needed my disaster of a couch fixed for the umpteenth time, and the guy who said he'd help me stopped answering my texts, I starting eating cereal on a folding chair. When I need a notebook or cardigan, I schlep my weary body to Max Stock or Castro after work and I get it myself. When I need a ride to the airport, I undergo the brutal abuse that is calling Nesher (cab-share service) and allow them to berate me in aggressive Hebrew and then drop me off 4 hours before my flight. And for anything else, I weigh how much I really need it versus the discomfort of asking a new friend for help if I don't really, truly need it.
Let me give you an example of my new- found independence that just occurred this week. I have been in the market for a small cabinet for months. I have been following all the buying, swapping and selling in various Facebook groups to find the right size at the right price. Finally, a friend was giving one away! But how to transport it? I called a few friends who reminded me "hi, we don't have cars either!" Then I called someone I'm quite close with who didn't have the time/didn't want to (we're still close, but it was touch and go) I called and called various friends until I had to let her give the cabinet to someone else. I realized in that moment that in America: my dad could have helped me move it, my mom could have bought me one from IKEA, and I myself could have heaved it into my own car. Here in Israel- nothing. You may ask- why didn't you take a cab? Excellent question! Fact is, I couldn't stomach getting ripped off and paying more for the 3 minute ride than the cabinet was worth. So sue me. Finally, yesterday, I found a cabinet! It's made of plastic (meh) and the size and price were right. I decided to do this alone.
Do you know what a Bubby Cart is? Maybe you know it as a "grocery cart" but I call it a Bubby Cart because it's what all the little Jerusalem Bubbies (grandmas) use to schlep their groceries around the shuk/market. So I recently bought a rather fancy one (thanks, mom!) and I took off the bag to fashion myself a bit of a dolly. I took the bus to the seller's apartment and boom- first hurdle- no elevator. It's cool, she helps me bring it down the 3 flights and I put it on the "dolly." No ropes? No problem- I'll just hold on to it for dear life. Made it to the bus stop with little trouble and only mildly horrified stares greet me. What- haven't you ever seen people move medium/large furniture on a public bus? I get on the bus and I am chilling. I mean, I'm winning at life! Spoke too soon. See, school hasn't started yet for the children of Israel, so at a stop between there and home, not one, not two, but three moms with carriages and 2 spare kids each load the bus. And not just the bus. The exact area where me and cabinet are. How big is this bus, you wonder? It's a double bus with nothing but empty space for the kids to frolic if they so chose. Which they did not. They chose to stand directly on my toes. Live, love Israel, amiright? So one mom gets off, then the next and finally I'm thinking I hit the trifecta, but no, Mom #3 decides to try and let me out. But in the process, she blocks the door and knocks off 2 of my cabinet's plastic feet. Whoops. Finally I get out of the bus and decide to take the light rail down the home stretch. And good news! It's only 3 minutes away! And it stays 3 minutes away for the next 10 minutes. Ultimately, the sign switched to "train stopped" and I realize it's me and my cabinet, bumping down Jaffa Street at rush hour, with the judging eyes of all Jerusalem upon me.
|Me, my cabinet, and the #74 Bus|
One things that's really fun (read: infuriating) about people in Jerusalem is that they stop for no reason, for any length of time, in the middle of the street, whenever. It is the most bizarre phenomenon. So there I go, bobbing and weaving around the human statues, trying to will the street shorter or the cabinet lighter or the weather cooler (it goes without saying that I was not enjoying the August Jerusalem heat at the moment.) I'm almost there, I can see my block, and the cabinet slips off the dolly with a thud. After some colorful language and a quick "why me?" a sweet girl offers to help me. I first say no, my independence speaking for me, but then allow her to help me so I can make the last few feet on my own. I schlep the cabinet up my stairs, alone, clean and stock the shelves and drink about 2 liters of water, unbelievably (maybe too?) proud of my accomplishment.
Are all my tasks this huge and difficult? No way. Doesn't anyone ever help me? I would be remiss to not mention the amazing people in this country who help me in countless ways every day- the people who let me use their laundry machines and the kind souls who have me for meals. The generous people who give me rides when they can and the incredible friends who offer me support when I'm sick or sad. Israel is full of beautiful, kind-hearted people who I know I will grow to need and count on just as much as they people I left.
But for right now, I am still new here. I haven't yet built my family and my friendships are still young. You can't make an old friend in less than a year. So I will continue to fix my own appliances and move my own furniture. I will pick up my own necessities and find my own way to the party. I will even figure out a way to fix my good-for-nothing couch somehow. Because I have decided to move away from my safety net and totally on my own- and I wouldn't change that decision for anything. And if you need me, I'll be eating cereal on my folding chair.