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I have nothing to write about. It’s not for lack of material; I’ve had experiences a-plenty over the last three weeks. To be honest, I’m somewhat overwhelmed still. I don’t know if I’ll ever cease to be overwhelmed in this city overflowing with all shapes and walks of humanity. I thought Maui had some colorful characters – Jerusalem has them in spades.
The Orthodox Jews for instance. This week the early onslaught of summer backed off for a bit and spring swooped in – bringing with it a slight chill in the air and sporadic showers. Very nice. Many of the Orthodox wear these large black felt hats with wide brims. When it started to rain I was tickled to realize that they didn’t take these hats off to protect them but instead just threw plastic bags over them. Yep. Just right over em. The best were the super orthodox who had hats that resembled large furry circular drums. I mean, the hat by itself already screams for attention, but throw a trash bag over that sucker and you got a spectacle. There’s no disrespect here, I totally understand the functionality. It’s just something you would never see in America. And I would personally take the hat off if I didn’t want it to get wet. Anywho.
I’ve seen beautiful Israeli women marching through the square with skinny jeans, high-healed boots, and a pistol strapped around their waist. Tourists in khakis and safari hats, tourists with backpacks and dreads, tourists who wold look like locals except for the lost look on their faces. Arabs in traditional dress, or in Abercrombie and Fitch. I thought San Francisco was diverse in its fashion, but really, it has its own “hipness.” There is no “hip” in Jerusalem – there are too many cultures, religions, fractions of religions for any fashion trend to take hold. Which is just fine in my opinion. And I only have five outfits anyway.
I think most people here assume I’m some sort of Middle Eastern. At least, most initiate a conversation with me in Hebrew or Arabic only to be met by my apologetic shoulder shrug and a sad, “sorry English only,” reply. Tis the perk of being nebulously Ethnic. No one knows exactly what I am, and American is not their first guess. When standing in line for the ATM I was approached by a woman who was gesturing wildly at the machines in front of us: “HELLO! HELP, YES? WHICH – MACHINE – WORK – FOR – AMERICAN?” She concluded her interpretative dance by shaking her wallet in front of my face. It took me a minute to respond as I was trying stupidly hard not to laugh. Note to self: talking in a loud, slow voice does NOT make a foreign language more intelligible, but it DOES make you look silly.
“Yea, you want the one on the far left.”
“Oh. Uh, well, thank you.”
“No worries. There’s a line though.”
My favorite, however, happened at a bible study:
“Heyyyy! First time here?”
“Hi! Yea, I was at Sunday service and heard about this. Thought I’d check you guys out.”
“Great, welcome, my name is Alex.”
“Hey Alex, I’m Awa. So where’s home for you?”
“Just outside of Toronto – you familiar with Canada?”
“I mean, not entirely, but I know where Toronto is. I’m from Maui.”
“Oh that’s neat.”
“Yea, first time in Israel and – “
“I’m sorry – I just have to say – you speak English really well.”
Amazing awkward pause.
“Yeaaaa. I’m from Maui… You know…Hawaii? It’s a state.”
More pausing, GIANT grin taking over my face.
“Oh. Hawaii. Wow. Sorry.”
It made my day. Work has been incredibly busy lately, so I haven’t done much adventuring beyond Jerusalem. It’ll happen though, Galilee is my next mission. The siren call of the ocean is sounding, so I’ll need to get my fix soon.
As a random aside, work has been somewhat hectic because we currently have six children in Israel awaiting surgery, and one young girl is a Syrian refugee. Yea, it’s a big deal. Doaa and her mother (one of the bravest women I’ve ever had the honor of meeting) came into Israel last week despite the current conflict with Syria. She overcame her own fear, and Jordan’s resistance to let them travel. I’ve noticed that the women here seem older, they walk with authority and a strength that goes beyond their young years. I suppose when your world is one of constant challenges you either grow up or fall apart. They humble me every day.