Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Parallel Universe

On my second to last day in Israel, my friend made an odd suggestion:

Try to forget all of your incredible memories from the past nine months.

She could tell I was confused by the way I stared back at her, perplexed and silent, waiting for an explanation.

Forget, because no other time in our lives will ever compare.

As I sit here in Starbucks back in my secular town, I find that my words aren’t pouring out as they once did – and only now do I see the harsh truth in my friend’s odd, but very accurate, suggestion.

It’s not that I had such a troublesome transition back to the States. In fact, besides the initial culture shock of not being around Jews 24/7 and that weeklong inescapable jet lag, I fell back into the comfortable bubble of Rye, New York quite smoothly. I delved quickly into work at my internship and crammed my calendar with overlapping plans with friends, family, and anyone I’d missed during my nine month “abandonment’ abroad.

I’ve even hit most of the food spot’s I longed for; my sushi place, Trader Joes, Chipotle, pizza, Subway, I’ve been to them all.

So yes, in the big picture, I’m content. From a distance, my life even seems ideal – I have a fun internship, loyal friends, a supportive boyfriend, a loving family. But looking from the inside out, there is a clear void in my daily life. It’s the little things, the quirky things, that remind me how much I miss my IsraeLife.

This sense of longing explains why, when I took my first bite of my signature Subway sandwich, my mind reverted to the incredible falafel stand on Ben Yehuda street, Jerusalem; why I wake up in the mornings half expecting to be jolted by the ear-numbing repetitive sounds of the Bat Yam High School bell; why I so frequently mistake squirrels for cats at first glance; why I refuse to believe that there’s such thing as a “line” for checkout.

And on some days, I so wish I had my 1999 Edition Nokia IsraelPhone—because unfortunately, my new blackberry curve doesn’t have “Snake”, the numbers of nearly everyone in Section 3, the option to text in Hebrew, and the rustic appeal of a phone that’s been passed from year courser to year courser, outlasting the generations.

Some nights, as I lay peacefully in my king sized Temperpedic bed, even my dreams take me back to Bat Yam:

Suddenly I’m in my sandy, twin-sized bed, physically drained from the weekend’s hike up north. Sunlight beams through my window, beckoning my wakening, urging me to begin the day. Despite my soreness and sleep deprivation, I’m propelled by passion and motivated by something greater than myself. I roll out my yoga mat, turn on my relaxation playlist, raise my arms to the sky, and begin to stretch, fulfilling my morning ritual. After a breakfast of oatmeal and fresh fruit, I leave my apartment of six girls, hop on my bike, and head to the park where I’ll teach English to an elderly lady I met the week before.

It’s a simple memory, from not too long ago, of an average day in Bat Yam. Though here in Rye, this memory feels so distant. I can picture the multicolored flowers that filled the park, the palm trees, the turquoise hue of the Mediterranean sea; I can even hear the cats fighting in my apartment parking lot, the market place booming with locals bartering for the best price, the rampant honking in the streets.

I am present in that life, that foreign life, in a parallel universe. It’s as if no time had elapsed in my Rye life—I left in August, returned in June—hopping from one summer to the next.

Was everything in between just a continuous dream?

Sometimes, I honestly feel like it was. It takes a moment, when acquaintances ask about my freshman year of college, to explain what I did the past nine months. I am almost taken aback every time at how out of the ordinary my experiences sound, and how uniquely remarkable my year abroad truly was.

Perhaps that’s why it’s taken nearly a month to complete this last post. I’ve become so ensconced within my life here, it’s been difficult to put myself 6000 miles away, back in my parallel universe where life was just so…different.

I guess now the challenge I face is incorporating everything I’ve learned abroad into the present, without feeling like I need to be in Israel to continue moving forward. So far, so good, I’d say; I’ve already single handedly cooked a Shabbat dinner for my whole family, practiced my Hebrew with Israelis at a dinner party, spread Arabic/ Yiddish/ Hebrew slang expressions around my secular town, and have officially eliminated the presence of tight clothing in my wardrobe. I guess I’ve channeled my inner chilled out Tel Aviv Hippie self (as I sit here sipping my Chai Latte in my flowy Aladdin Pants). I definitely stand out among the Polo wearing, plaid pants crowd that makes up Rye, but I kind of like it that way—I’ve established a new personal style that reminds me, every day, of how Israel has become a part of me.

So I suppose the imminent question arises: will I go back?

Of course, the answer is yes. After living there for nine months of my short life, I have to visit frequently, for my own sanity. As for living there—I really couldn’t say.

In the end, there’s no way of truly knowing where my life is headed. In fact, I changed my college choice almost the same amount of times as I changed my first date outfit, my favorite color, my favorite band, even my favorite ice cream flavor.

Things inevitably change; so for now, I’ll accept that as my guiding motto for the future. Perhaps Grad school will take me back to Tel Aviv, perhaps I’ll stay in Boston, maybe even go back to Manhattan.

The only thing I’m sure of right now is my next step: College.

Tune into my next post, as I begin my transition from my IsraeLife to my BostonLife!