Saturday, September 1, 2012

Romney and Ryan (and Clint!) from afar

...seem perhaps even more ridiculous. My hubby and I watched some of the goings on at the RNC via iPad last night, on our last evening in Tel Aviv. Perhaps it was due to being in a two-week politics-free vacation state but...seriously?

On a more meaningful note, we are at the Tel Aviv airport, finally having some good coffee after countless passport checks and questions ("What was the purpose of your visit? Do you know anyone in Israel?") Security is tight, but friendly, and no one asks you to take off your shoes or throw out your water. We are on our way to Istanbul for an afternoon and night, then back to reality. This was a very different Israel trip than my first post-college experience. That one was a bus tour with a gaggle of young 20 somethings, with stops at all the major sights and no interactions with Israelis other than our voluble and enthusiastic guide. Back then, I went expecting a spiritual experience, because that's what I was told I would have. Didn't happen. This time, I thought I was traveling with fewer expectations, but when I arrived, I realized that because I was in Israel, I felt a pressure that I don't feel as much on other vacations. To see the holiest sights. Or to see every sight, in general. Somehow, I didn't associate Israel with vacation and relaxation; to me, it felt as if I had a duty to check everything off my list. And so, for the first half of the trip, we traveled and saw sights, and (I'll admit) I felt a bit stressed. Trying to see all there is to see in Jerusalem in 36 hours is about as impossible as doing the same in New York City, plus the reverence factor. It was only during the second part of the trip when I realized, "Hey, this is a real place like any other, with restaurants to try and people to watch and beaches to lounge on." Which is when we finally slowed down, stopped trying to cram everything in, and began to truly enjoy ourselves. We skipped a final trip to Jerusalem and instead decided to enjoy the pleasures of our incredibly charming neighborhood, Neve Tzedeck. I shopped. (Great boutiques. Great prices.) We went to the beach every afternoon from 3 pm til sunset, sitting on the deck of our favorite restaurant, eating mezze with amazing bread and watching the sun melt into the mediterranean. We lingered at rooftop bars. We saw a way-too-avante garde dance performance (we both agreed the dancers looked like they were having spastic fits, but hey--we got some culture). We struck up random conversations with Israelis. We relaxed in our air conditioned apartment during the high heat of the day. We had breakfast at our favorite restaurant every morning and became "regulars." Snuggled with our adopted cat, Shakshuka. That's her, below, licking my s.o. with zealotry. We read and read and read. (I took a break from book number 3 (Edgar Sawtelle) to start book number 4: Orange is the New Black, a memoir by Piper Kerman, an upper crust Smith grad who ends up spending a year in prison for a drug trafficking crime she committed as a reckless 22 year old. (I decided I wouldn't do so badly myself in a minimum security prison. People skills and intuition can take you pretty far in that kind of situation.) And so, two weeks in, I finally reached the vacation state of mind that I'd been striving for. Calm. Rested. Clear of mind. Full of vows to keep some perspective when I hit my desk on Tuesday morning. Now I just need to keep it going to the end of the first week, at least. But first, a day and night in Istanbul.

Below, a shot of the Tel Aviv airport, with a cool fountain, where the water drips from a skylight, like a giant passing shower. Why can't JFK look like this?)

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