It would be nice if I could blame my tiredness on jetlag. I'm not sleeping well, which is definitely a symptom of jetlag but perhaps due more to my unsettled on-the-road existence. Maybe they're the same thing?
For some reason, I'm waking up frightfully early every morning—4 or 5am—then sometimes falling back to sleep until 6 or 7. It's not enough sleep and I start crashing by mid-afternoon. I'm still only drinking coffee in the morning, hoping that one of these days I'll fall asleep and stay asleep, but I'm guessing that will happen only right before I return home.
Where did I leave off in my tale of adventure? I was in Paris. My plan for my last full day was to go see the Basquiat show at the Museum of Modern Art. I wasn't the only one with the idea, since I found a very long line when I got there. I decided to stand in the line for about 30 minutes and see what happened. 30 minutes later, I was about halfway to the entrance and I decided to cut my loses. Maybe I missed a great show, but perhaps it will travel to DC—and seeing a show under very crowded conditions is never much fun. For better or worse, that was my decision. Less time standing in lines in Paris seemed like a good thing.
I walked away in search of a café. I sat down to rest my feet and enjoy a very expensive mediocre coffee. I checked my map and my ipod for a new destination. I decided on the Felix Nussbaum show, mostly on the grounds that it wouldn't be crowded. I checked out a bike and rode most of the way there—but my first stop was the BHV cafeteria. I went there once before and found it relatively easy to navigate and not too expensive. This time, navigation was easy enough, though it was quite crowded, but I didn't manage to have a cheap lunch. Still, paying in advance is more relaxing since I didn't have to worry about catching the server's attention to get the bill and fret about the tip. Worth it, overall.
I walked from there to the art museum and I quite enjoyed the exhibit. Nussbaum was a German-Jewish artist, eventually killed at Auschwitz, who did a lot of his paining in exile. Not bad, very interesting, and not crowded, so I was able to really get a good look at the art.
I had a plan to meet Claire later, and after more walking and no shopping (did I mention the coat and shirts I bought?), I eventually did meet her. We had a drink and then found a place for dinner. Claire was a bit concerned that I wasn't planning to leave for the airport until 7:30am when my flight was a 10:30. I assured her it would be ok. After dinner, we walked to her bus stop and said goodbye—for now. I'll see her again in a bit over a week, when I pass through Paris on my way to London.
When I got back to my hotel room, I had to pack. Somehow I managed to get everything into my suitcase without too much trouble. I did leave a little earlier than planned, a little after 7am. Getting to the airport was no problem, but getting through the airport took a painfully long time. Going to Israel meant an extra passport check, a desultory baggage search (nothing removed, but all zips unzipped and poked into) and a very long way to travel through the terminal. I'd say I still had about a half hour to spare, but Claire's concern wasn't completely unwarranted. Luckily (?), the plane was delayed about 30 minutes, leaving time for a coffee, a croissant and another coffee. We were delayed again after boarding, due to the strike, but only another 20 minutes. In the end, I was 30 minutes late getting to Israel. Not too bad.
Spesh was waiting for me at Tel Aviv. I expect to take the train with him to his place but he'd actually just gone to buy a new car the same day. I don't think I'll ever tire of saying that he bought a car to pick me up at the airport, but it's not accurate. He didn't deny that it provide some motivation, though. He was also impressed with my luggage: two backs, one big one with all my stuff, and the smaller hand luggage. I was disappointed with myself for not getting it all into one bag (including the smaller bag, which could then be removed for day trips), but Spesh approving meant a lot since he is the master of traveling light.
Our plan was for me to stay the night (Thursday) in Tel Aviv and get to Jerusalem the next day (Friday). We dropped off my stuff at his apartment, the place he shares with his girlfriend (her place, but he lives there now). We hung out with her and Spesh's cousin for a while and ate a meal prepared by the cousin. We all went our separate ways soon after, Spesh and I to a talk about lessons to be learned from the anti-Apartheid movement. The talk wasn't bad, but I started falling asleep halfway through and Spesh was kind enough to take me home.
We hung out a bit with his cousin, an interesting woman from Toronto, when we got back and soon enough it was time to sleep. The plan was for me to get to the Tel Aviv airport in the morning to meet my dad's incoming flight. Since Dad was renting a car, we could drive together to Jerusalem. I'd discussed the plan with Susan (Dad's wife) but not with Dad. I figured if I got there early enough, it would work, since international flights all have the same exit point after passport control and customs.
We got up fairly early and went to their neighborhood café. I got coffee and a toasted pita with tomato and feta—very tasty. Spesh went off to get the car, which took forever, much longer than he'd planned for and, thus, I was running late. While I expect everything to move slowly and inefficiently in Israel, I really didn't want to miss Dad's plane. If we didn't find each other, I'd have to figure out another way to get to Jerusalem and it would be a pain.
In the end, I got the train RIGHT before it left the station. As it turned out, I had more than enough time, since Dad's flight was a bit late. He was happy and surprised to see me. We got the car, which I ended up driving, and arrived safely in Jerusalem.
Of course, Friday is the beginning of the Sabbath, and Jerusalem, the holy city, was starting to shut down when we arrived. We had to make some preparations before going to my brother's house to celebrate. I ran out and got a sandwich. Dad rested. I came back and had to shower and put on some nice and "decent" clothes. We drove out to my brother's house just in time.
I planned to spend the night there. Dad and Susan didn't. They have a "trick" which is to park the car in an out of the way place, at the top of the hill, and "go for a walk" at some point and not return. (I told Spesh that they cheated and he said, "They park the car around the corner?" "How did you know?" "Oldest trick in the book.") Dad encouraged me to stay and I did, even though I do find the experience more exhausting than restful. The evening began with a lot of babies crawling around. My niece, Ora, just had her third child, and was still resting up in the hospital, but her other two sons were with us: ages 1 and 2 years, approximately. My niece Adina was there with her 8-month-old girl. And, yes, I can now remember all the names of all of my great nieces and nephews:
- Yakov Moishe
- Meir Simcha
- Sara Rina
Impressive, right? All of these babies received a knitted gift from me, except the last, who I didn't even know was on the way. I'll be asking his mom what she would like today. I also got my first knitting commission from Adina, who told me how much she liked the blanket I made for her baby (Sara Rina) and that she could almost wear it as a shawl…and by the way, she was wondering, if I could make her a shawl in a similar style? Why yes, yes I could! She was a bit worried about how much time it would take and I said, "Think of it this way, I'm going to be knitting something, why not something for you?" That convinced her.
After hanging out, we had a big meal with 12 people (not including babies). This will be one of the smallest groups of the trip, too. The food, as usual, was decent and plentiful. Afterwards, Dad and Susan made a subtle exit and we hung out with babies some more. Then I went next door to my designated sleeping place with the neighbors.
This part is sort of funny. When I visit my ultra-orthodox family, I try to follow the customs. Not because I believe, but because it's polite. I watch carefully and follow their lead. Several years ago, I asked my sister-in-law, Tikva, if it was ok to knit on Shabbos. She said no. In the bible it mentions knitting (or weaving) in the Temple and all activities that were done in the Temple are prohibited on the Sabbath. So, no knitting. At one point, Caroline, Tikvah's birth mother and now a part of the family (long story) pulled out some knitting. She's starting to take it up and wanted to share with me and also, knit. I didn't know what to do. Caroline is Christian and technically, the rules don't apply to her, but I know she's trying to be "good." Yet, none of my nieces said anything to her, so I didn't either. She didn't pick up on my lack of knitting and it seemed extra rude to tell her she was breaking the rules, so I said nothing.
Back to my room. The nice neighbor showed me a room that I would have all to myself and asked, "Is it ok that the light is on?" A not very bright light was on above the bed. I said I felt bad but I hadn't been sleeping well and I was worried the light might keep me up. No problem she said and immediately rousted her daughter from her bed and put me in there. Um, whoops! Then I learned I'd have a roommate later, when someone else arrived to sleep in the second bed in the room. What had I done? It wasn't until the morning that the thought occurred to me that I could have turned off the light, turned it back on in the morning, and the family never would've know. I don't follow these rules and I don't even believe in them, yet, in that moment, I was bound by them. (Except, not really, since I read a book on my ipod until my roommate showed up. I managed to stow it just in time.)
I told the story to Tikvah in the morning (not the ipod part) and she said, "but you could have just turned off the light!" I said, "I know, but I wasn't thinking clearly." I guess it's ok, more God points for me. Who doesn't need a few more God points?
I'll have to catch you up with the rest of my adventures later. But stay tuned: the wedding is tomorrow!
Grateful for: kind neighbors.